Jakki Jeffs has written an excellent article that essentially connects the historical and philosophical consequences of euthanasia and connects them to the current cultural pressures that have created a push for legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. This is an article that is worth reading.
Text of the article that was published in the Guelph (Ontario) Mercury on February 23, 2009 by Jakki Jeffs:
I believe it appropriate to begin this column with the words of Dr. Leo Alexander, who served with the office of the Chief Counsel for War Crimes, in Nuremberg.
"Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first, were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick.
"Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and finally all non-Germans. But it is important to realize that the infinitely small wedge-in lever from which this entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude toward the non-rehabilitable sick."
In 1985, Alexander remarked that America was becoming a mirror of Germany in that the "barriers to killing are coming down."
Here in Canada, the barriers against killing are also coming down. Since 1991, no less than five private member's bills have been introduced at the federal level, each wishing to legalize euthanasia and/or assisted suicide in Canada.
Francine Lalonde, MP for La Pointe-de- l'Ile, is the author of the two most recent attempts and has given notice to Parliament of her plans to introduce another bill regarding "the right to die with dignity."
Lalonde's last effort would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide for people suffering from chronic physical or mental pain; for people suffering from, but not limited to, terminal illness.
The proposed law was not limited to Canadian citizens, which could have made Canada the second most popular country for "suicide tourists."
Her bill did not even require that a person attempt to access effective treatment first, neither did it limit the option to "competent" patients -- leaving room for third-party assisted suicide consent. It actually appeared to allow euthanasia by someone other than a doctor.
These bills, including ones introduced at the Ontario provincial level addressing "natural death," show the subtle shift in attitude by medical professionals and the public regarding the non-rehabilitable sick.
In the Library of Parliament, Current Issue review 91-91E Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada, it notes that in the past, the tolerance for suicide developed from a disdain for weakness, illness and the inability to contribute to society.
Is this happening again today?
The growing numbers of chronic diseases -- experienced as people live longer; the increasing costs of health care expense; the refusal to prosecute or convict; and the war cry of "choice" have all tempered our Canadian society into the belief that the cold-blooded murder of disabled or dying persons can actually be compassionate or merciful.
I know from personal experience with my mother that dignity is not upheld by abandonment of the vulnerable to those who would kill them, nor by hiding behind our own fear of disability, illness or death.
Neither is it upheld by denying our own prejudice toward those who communicate differently, whose methods of mobility is alien to us or whose body might be missing some fundamental elements we consider essential.
Dignity is never upheld when we forgo the sacrosanct nature of human life by accepting that there is life unworthy to be lived. We must know where this path will lead. The Nazi experiment showed us that misplaced compassion leads to merciless killing.
Human dignity requires our presence, our service and our commitment to walk with and lament the loss.
We hear the plea that begs us to help, to make sense of, relieve and share the suffering.
I pray that Canadians will reject Lalonde's latest "Parliamentary Act of Abandonment" and continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the dying, disabled and sick. In solidarity with them until the lament of life has come to completion.
Jakki Jeffs is a member of the Mercury's Community Editorial Board.
Link to the article in the Guelph Mercury: