Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
A critique of Canadian Senate Bill S - 225.
Senator Nancy Ruth and Senator Larry Campbell introduced Senate Private Bill S 225, a bill that legalizes euthanasia by lethal injection and assisted suicide by lethal prescription. This bill is based on the private members bills that were introduced by Stephen Fletcher MP earlier this year.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) welcomes an open debate based on the facts.
Canada has debated euthanasia and assisted suicide on many occasions with the most recent vote in parliament (April 2010) where bill C-384 was defeated by a vote of 228 to 59.
The language of Senate Bill S 225 is intentionally permissive. The bill is designed to protect physicians who act by lethally injecting or assisting the suicide of their patients. It is not designed to protect the patients.
- The bill specifically allows euthanasia and assisted suicide for people with disabilities.
- The bill allows euthanasia or assisted suicide for "psychological suffering." Psychological suffering is not defined.
- The bill is not limited to terminal illness.
- The bill requires the physician to self report the death after it has already occurred. This assumes that physicians will self-report abuse of the law. Since the patient is dead, when the act is reported, therefore no actual protection exists for the patient.
People with disabilities generally oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada case concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide. In its media release CCD spokesperson, Catherine Frazee stated:
In jurisdictions where assisted suicide/euthanasia is legal the leading reasons given for dying are not pain related, but rather “losing dignity and autonomy” and “becoming burdensome for family and friends”.
To endorse these as valid reasons to die can only reinforce and entrench fear of disability and prejudice about the value of disabled people’s livesSince bill S 225 does not define "psychological suffering" we must consider how this term has been applied in the Netherlands where euthanasia for psychological suffering already occurs. For instance:
- A healthy blind woman died last year by euthanasia in the Netherlands.
- A healthy 63 year-old man who had worked all of his life, was depressed and died by euthanasia.
- The 2013 Netherlands statistics indicate that there were 4829 euthanasia deaths, of which 97 were people with dementia and 42 were people with psychiatric problems.
Professor Theo Boer, a 9 year member of a Regional Euthanasia Review Committee in the Netherlands, changed his mind and now opposes euthanasia. In a recent article, Boer stated:
I used to be a supporter of legislation. But now, with twelve years of experience, I take a different view.
At the very least, wait for an honest and intellectually satisfying analysis of the reasons behind the explosive increase in the numbers. Is it because the law should have had better safeguards? Or is it because the mere existence of such a law is an invitation to see assisted suicide and euthanasia as a normality instead of a last resort? Before those questions are answered, don’t go there. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely to ever go back in again.EPC welcomes an open debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide, so long as it is an open debate. Ignoring the facts will be at Canada's peril.
Links to further information.
- Legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide is not safe. Patient safety must come first.
- Death is not preferable to living with a significant disability.
- Why I'm afraid of Stephen Fletcher's assisted suicide bill.
- Euthanasia undermines protections in law for me.
- People with disabilities feel threatened by moves to legalize euthanasia.
- Wesley Smith comments on Stephen Fletcher's euthanasia bill.