Sunday, February 17, 2013

Untruths used to push for euthanasia law


The following article was written by Licia Corbella and published on February 16 in the Calgary Herald under the title: Untruths used to push for euthanasia law.

Licia Corbella
Licia Corbella, Calgary Herald, February 16, 2013

The case of Ruth Goodman is a perfect example of how confused, illogical, uninformed and sometimes untruthful many proponents of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide are.

Goodman killed herself on Feb. 2, with no assistance, at the age of 91 in her Vancouver home, in a bid to change physician assisted suicide laws. If you're scratching your head right now and saying, huh? don't be alarmed, you are thinking clearly and are not losing your mind.

In short, Goodman's final act makes no sense. The reason this woman's last act is so strange is because everyone already has the right to die. Suicide is not illegal.

"I am a 91-year-old woman who has decided to end my life in the very near future," wrote Goodman, who had worked at an abortion clinic and was involved with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

"I do not have a terminal illness; I am simply old, tired and becoming dependent, after a wonderful life of independence," she wrote. "By the time people read this, I will have died.

I am writing this letter to advocate for a change in the law so that all will be able to make this choice."

To reiterate, everyone already can make "this choice." It's not illegal to kill yourself. No laws have to be changed. Anyone and everyone can commit suicide as long as they don't endanger anyone else while doing so.

What so-called right-to-die activists are actually seeking is the right for people to help other people to die - they want the right to kill other people and to have other people kill them, making legal what has been illegal in most sane places, since time immemorial. In countries where euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are legal - like the Netherlands - it is documented that thousands of people have been killed involuntarily by their physicians without their consent, even when a full recovery was possible.

Alas, this illogical and discordant story about Goodman has garnered much media attention, and that in itself is disturbing when you consider another story about euthanasia that has not received any mainstream media attention.

On Jan. 21, a Quebec group called the Physicians' Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia (PATRE), sent out a news release deploring the Quebec government's commissioned report, that advocates for making physician-assisted suicide legal.

More than 300 Quebec physicians provided their signed support, beseeching all Quebecers to become aware of the dangers the report poses to their well being and urging them to implore the opposition majority in Quebec's National Assembly to condemn it.

"This report is the work of some hand-picked lawyers who present the act of doctors killing patients as if it were part of a natural continuum with good end-of-life care," said PATRE spokesperson Dr. Catherine Ferrier. "They and the politicians who appointed them introduce the term 'medically assisted dying' as if it were something different from killing patients. This act is abhorrent to us as doctors, and should appall Quebecers who care about social justice and building communities that care about the most vulnerable."

A coherent, clear statement - unlike the letter Goodman wrote.

PATRE was formed in the fall of 2012 by a core group of 24 Quebec doctors, including Drs. Patrick Vinay, former dean of medicine at the U of Montreal; Abraham Fuks, former dean of medicine at McGill; Pierre Durand, former dean of medicine at Laval and many other leading oncologists and palliative care specialists.

What's perhaps most astonishing is despite the heft of those who oppose the Menard report's push to legalize physician-assisted suicide, not one mainstream media organization has written about PATRE or called to speak to Ferrier, whose phone numbers were listed on the group's Canada-wide news release.

"You're the first journalist of a major news outlet to call me," revealed Ferrier.

As a journalist friend from Montreal said to me about the lack of attention PATRE received, "our confreres have quaffed the Kool-Aid from the promoters of medical killing. Journalism as Jonestown."

It really is shameful how the side in favour of physicians killing their patients must rely on suppression of the other side of the debate and misinformation to push their insidious agenda.

Next month, the federal government will challenge to the B.C. Court of Appeal a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that said the federal law prohibiting suicide assistance discriminates against people with disabilities and doctors should be allowed to help terminally ill patients end their lives.

B.C. Civil Liberties Association lawyer Grace Pastine, who is arguing in favour of legalizing euthanasia, said about Goodman's case: "None of the countries in the world, or the U.S. states that have legislation permitting physician-assisted dying, would allow for it, in this situation," because she was not terminally ill or in pain.

Pastine is wrong. In the Netherlands, physicians are killing mildly deformed infants, depressed teenagers can request that they be killed, and recently in Belgium, deaf twin brothers were euthanized after they learned that they were going blind. They were not terminally ill or dying and yet they were assisted in their suicide by a physician who has not been charged with their deaths.

Euthanasia proponents must rely on misinformation to sell their deadly end goal. Too few people are killing their untruths and that threatens the lives and worth of society's most vulnerable.

Licia Corbella is a columnist and editorial page editor. lcorbella@calgaryherald.com

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