The following article was written by Lana Haight and published in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reporting on the debate between Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and Wanda Morris from Dying with Dignity on May 3, 2012 at the Frances Morrison Public Library in Saskatoon. The article is short but accurate.
The issues in a British Columbia court case over doctor-assisted suicide made their way to a Saskatoon lecture hall Thursday night.
"It's a really timely issue," said George Williamson, advocacy officer with the Saskatoon branch of the Centre for Inquiry.
The organization sponsored a debate at Frances Morrison Public Library between Wanda Morris, the executive director of Dying with Dignity Canada, and Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
The B.C. Supreme Court is deliberating over a case that includes a woman with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, who wants to be able to decide when to end her life with the assistance of a doctor. While the court is expected to release its judgment later this spring, the decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, say Morris and Schadenberg.
For Morris, the issue comes down to choice and compassion.
"Choice, independence, autonomy is the fundamental cornerstone of modern medicine. In a situation where someone is grievously ill at end of life, we think they should have the right, the choice, to end their suffering with assistance, if they choose, (and) of course with safeguards in place to make sure we protect the weak and vulnerable," said Morris in an interview before the debate.
But Schadenberg says it's bad public policy to legalize assisted suicide.
"We have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and we are all equal under the law. If assisted suicide is available to one group in Canada, it will be available to all groups in Canada," he said in an interview before the debate.
"The (current) law is clearly designed to protect vulnerable people. Suicide is not illegal, but assisting somebody in suicide is illegal, and the idea is clear about protecting vulnerable people. It's important that we uphold these protections."
He says changing the law to allow assisted suicide protects the one doing the assisting, not the one being assisted.
Euthanasia, where someone administers a lethal substance to bring about death, or assisted suicide, where someone provides that substance for the individual to administer themselves, is available in five jurisdictions worldwide: Oregon, Washington, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Both speakers looked at cases from these jurisdictions to support their positions. Morris said the laws are working in other places whereas Schadenberg said the laws weren't working.
About 80 people participated in the debate, which ended with a question-and-answer session.
firstname.lastname@example.orgThis is a youtube link to the debate between Margaret Dore, Choice is an Illusion, and Wanda Morris, Dying with Dignity a couple of weeks before the Saskatoon debate. Youtube link.