Saturday, June 23, 2012
Corbella: The Slippery Slope of Euthanasia
The following column by Licia Corbella that was published in the Calgary Herald on June 22, 2012 under the title: The Slippery Slope of Euthanasia.
“I want the legal right to die peacefully, at the time of my own choosing, in the embrace of my family and friends.”
Those are the words of Gloria Taylor, the 64-year-old woman at the centre of a landmark B.C. Supreme Court ruling that strikes down Canada’s prohibition against physician-assisted suicide (PAS).
What’s ironic about Taylor’s statement is if she gets her legal right to die at the time of her own choosing, evidence shows that the right of many others to continue living will be jeopardized. That is the unintended consequence and irony behind euthanasia and PAS: Some people get the right to choose how and when to die and others don’t have the right to choose anything — ever again — because they will be involuntarily killed by their physicians.
That is what the evidence stemming from years of PAS shows in countries like the Netherlands and Belgium.
On June 15, Justice Lynn Smith ruled that the prohibition against PAS violates two section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — the right to equality and the right to life, liberty and the security of the person.
Because Taylor suffers from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Smith ruled that Taylor’s right to equality is violated since her disability would make it impossible for her to kill herself, which is the right of every other able bodied Canadian. Smith has given Parliament one year to rewrite the law, however, it’s more likely that her ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In her 286-page ruling, Smith refers to many comprehensive reports from the Netherlands and Belgium that clearly demonstrate that thousands of people have been killed without their consent by physicians, and yet she accepts the conclusion of pro-euthanasia experts that there is little evidence of a “slippery slope” or danger to society by turning the tables on the age-old rule against the premeditated killing of another human being.
But Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition — an intervener in this case — said simply quoting pro-euthanasia proponents claiming that a slippery slope doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean it’s true.
When physician-assisted suicide became a common practice in Holland about 30 years ago, the guidelines were that only terminally ill elderly people in excruciating pain who were not depressed and repeatedly asked for euthanasia would be eligible for euthanasia.
“Now, people suffering from psychiatric illnesses, youth and even infants are killed by their physicians in the Netherlands,” said Schadenberg. “If that’s not a slippery slope, I don’t know what is.” Heck, if that’s not a slippery slope, then neither is Mount Everest.
Smith refers to a series of highly regarded reports colloquially named the Remmelink reports, after Prof. Jan Remmelink, attorney general of the High Council of the Netherlands. In his first report in 1990, it was determined that 1,031 hospital patients were killed without their consent or knowledge. Of those 1,031 people, 14 per cent were found to be fully competent, 72 per cent had never expressed that they wanted their lives ended, and in eight per cent of the cases, doctors carried out “involuntary euthanasia” even though they believed other options were still available.
Catch that? Mull over those numbers. They speak of horror. And don’t be fooled by the euphemisms. Involuntary euthanasia is a shifty way of saying premeditated murder.
As Smith points out in her ruling, “similar studies were conducted in 1995, 2001 and 2005. Data were collected in 2010, but the results have yet to be published,” she writes.
“All four studies revealed cases of LAWER in the Netherlands,” writes Smith, referring to the Dutch term that means physician-assisted suicide without request and consent.
“In absolute numbers, there were 1,000 in 1990; 900 in each of 1995 and 2001 and 550 in 2005.”
Get the picture? You can have rules that say you must be old, terminally ill and must have expressed a desire to be killed, and once you allow this to be an accepted practice, doctors might just decide to kill you off and experts are going to shrug it off as “not necessarily proof of a slippery slope.”
Please, I urge all readers to google Remmelink and also the Groningen Protocol, which are the rules surrounding when it’s OK to murder infants not born perfect — including ones suffering only from spina bifida. The Groningen Protocol states that a baby can be killed if it does not need medical treatment but is likely to suffer.
Likely to suffer? Doesn’t that include all of us? Who made these people God? Well, courts did. Legislatures did.
So call your MPs, call the Prime Minister’s Office. Tell them you want them to appeal this dangerous ruling.
Taylor said the following in a news conference this week: “To die screaming at the top of my lungs because the pain is so great that I can’t stand it is something I try not to think about.” It’s terrible what Taylor is going through and I feel deep compassion for her. That’s why, when you call the PM and your MPs, also tell them that you want a comprehensive plan to improve palliative care and end-of-life care in this country so Taylor’s last days can be pain free.
That won’t just make someone’s dying bearable, it just might save your life.
Licia Corbella is a columnist and the editorial page editor. firstname.lastname@example.org