Monday, January 5, 2009

Montreal Gazette: Quebec should condemn assisted suicide explicitly

The Montreal Gazette editorial on Saturday, January 3, 2009 clearly stated why Quebec should condemn assisted suicide.

The editorial began by explaining why the acquital of Stephane Dufour should not represent a precedent on assisted suicide in Canadian law. This is exactly the position that the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has taken since the beginning of the case.

The editorial stated:
The question of assisted suicide has become an issue in Quebec after a jury, ignoring a judge's clear instructions, refused late last month to convict Stéphan Dufour of Alma, who had admitted playing a role in his uncle's self-inflicted death. ...

That is not a precedent to be followed on this issue. Quebec authorities should condemn assisted suicide explicitly, and explain to Quebecers why helping someone die is not an option individuals should be free to choose at will.

Dufour's case is staggeringly sad. The 31-year-old mentally-handicapped man was browbeaten by his uncle, Chantal Maltais, until he agreed to rig up a contraption which Maltais used to hang himself.

Maltais, crippled by polio, was confined to a wheelchair, but evidently could, and did, end his own life. He was able to get his way by abusing his nephew for weeks until Dufour agreed to help him.

One can easily understand why the jury acquitted Dufour. How could they condemn to jail a man described by a leading psychologist as socially, intellectually and emotionally a child. Under pressure, Dufour was three times more susceptible than a normal person, the psychologist said.

In acquitting Dufour the jury was surely acting out of a desire to spare an intellectually-incapacitated young man, more than from any wish to increase legal access to assisted suicide. But Dufour should never have been tried on this charge; he should have been declared unfit for trial. If supporters of assisted suicide choose this case as a template, they're in trouble.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition were concerned from the outset that charging Dufour with assisted suicide was an inappropriate charge. Now Crown has decided to retry the case based on the fact that the Crown did emphasize that Dufour had two days to deconstruct the suicide device. The response by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has been that the Crown should only retry the case if they have new evidence.

The article went on to emphasize how assisted suicide can threaten the lives of vulnerable people.

The editorial stated:
In fact, all the arguments we've heard in favour of assisted suicide break down under analysis. What looks at first blush like someone's firmly-held, well-thought-out desire to die often turns out, research has found, to be fear of burdening family or care-givers, a passing moment of despair, or the product of inadequate pain control.

There are also a rather surprising number of cases in which a treating doctor decides to hasten death without the patient's consent, never mind volition. In light of that, extending the power of life and death to relatives or friends seems downright foolish.

When the phrase "slippery slope" is trotted out, this is what it means: Patients being killed when alternatives exist - as they certainly did for Chantal Maltais.

This is not the direction we want our society to take. Political leaders need to show some leadership here, and speak up clearly against assisted suicide.

The fact is that euthanasia began in the Netherlands for people who were terminally ill and suffering uncontrolled pain. It is now available for people who have chronic physical and mental pain, including chronic depression, and infants with disabilities who have conditions that will not lead to immediate death.

The NVVE group in the Netherlands has now decided that their goal is to establish euthanasia for people who are "Tired of Living".

The euthanasia lobby likes to say there is no slippery slope. I guess that is because we have come to the bottom of the slope and when you hit bottom there is more slippage.

Link to the Montreal Gazette editorial:

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