Saturday, February 7, 2015

SCC Assisted Suicide decision is irresponsible and dangerous.

This article was published in the National Post on February 7, 2015.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg, 
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Supreme Court of Canada has made an activist decision by giving physicians the right in law to cause the death of people by euthanasia and assisted suicide. 

The Court has made an irresponsible and dangerous decision. By using imprecise and subjective language and by leaving many issues to be determined by Parliament, without objective criteria, the decision sets a dangerous precedent that, if unchecked, will lead to the sort of abuses that are now common in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.

The decision allows euthanasia and assisted suicide for physical and psychological conditions, without limiting it to clear parameters. Because there is no possible definition for psychological suffering, the Court has opened a Pandora’s Box.

Psychological suffering was the reason for approving the following deaths in the Netherlands: a healthy woman, with tinnitus; a healthy man who was lonely, depressed and recently retired; a healthy woman who was deaf, all died by euthanasia; among many other cases.

The decision legalizes euthanasia for:
“a competent adult person who 
(1) clearly consents to the termination of life and 
(2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”
One would assume “competent adult person” is clear enough, but what if that person is depressed? In Oregon, where the assisted death law is limited to people with less than six months to live, Dr. Charles Bentz wrote about his long-term patient who was diagnosed with depression yet died by assisted suicide — under a law that claims to protect depressed people from assisted suicide. Competence is very difficult to determine. Similarly, the Belgian law requires that the person be competent, and yet Professor Tom Mortier’s mother died by euthanasia even though she was only depressed.

The decision states that the person must clearly consent. But what if a person is unable to consent? Recent statistics from the Netherlands indicate that there are at least 300 assisted deaths without consent each year. The statistics also indicate that these assisted deaths are rarely reported.

Will abuse of the law occur? How could it not? The Supreme Court states that the person must have “a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability).” This is an incredibly subjective statement. Many people have a grievous and irremediable medical condition. Indeed, under this definition people with a significant disability may now feel pressured, by friends or the medical system to "choose" euthanasia.

Further, the decision states that the person’s condition must “cause enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.” The statement conjures up thoughts of excruciating pain, but in fact this is a very subjective statement, in as much as it is based on what is tolerable to the individual. There is no objective standard.

The subjective language of the decision, if implemented in legislation, would lead to assisted death becoming the norm in all of the situations in Belgium and the Netherlands that have led to such international concern.

Assisted death creates new paths of abuse for elders, for people with disabilities and for other socially devalued people. Depression, in particular, is common for people with significant health conditions. Assisted suicide represents an abandonment of people who live with depression who require support and proper care, and undermines important mental health and suicide prevention programs.

Giving doctors the right, in law, to cause the death of their patients will never be safe and no amount of so-called “safeguards” will protect those who live with depression or abuse. There will always be people who will abuse the power to cause death and there will always be more reasons to cause death.

The fact that assisted death for psychiatric conditions tripled in the Netherlands in 2013 is worrisome. The fact that very few people ask for euthanasia based on physical suffering is proof that no one actually needs to die in this way.

Since an election will occur in October, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is asking the government to use the notwithstanding clause to give us more time to craft a law that can still protect Canadians.

We must not abandon Canadians to the false lure of assisted death, but must keep up the fight on behalf of the vulnerable and people with disabilities, until the day a future Supreme Court overturns this activist decision.

National Post
Alex Schadenberg is executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.


Anonymous said...

These decisions are political and financial. They don't care about the individuals... all they see is that it is much cheaper to kill a person than to pay doctors to keep that person alive; instead of cutting in the staff, they cut on the patients... So convenient and much easier!
The perspective of such a law scares me. My husband is bipolar II with a tendency to suicidal thoughts. With his heart condition not improving and having lost much in his quality of life, he has been more depressed than usual lately. We always manage to get him out of his state of doom and back to having fun with us but with this law, who knows what he will do when he is really down? (We have never mentioned it to him and I thank my Lord that we have a family doctor who is against it so he will never offer it as well.) Has anyone thought of the repercussion on the rest of the family? We have a 14 years old daughter who adores her dad. My daughter refuses to visit him when he is at the hospital because she is scared of losing him. If he ends his life, how will she react? Domino effect?
And then that leaves me... Thank God I have a great circle of friends and they would not leave me alone but it is still really scary!

Jule Koch said...

If someone went to a police officer and asked him or her to kill them, would the police officer be charged if they complied with the request? Of course they would.
So the Supreme Court has actually given doctors more powers to kill than the police have.
Most people rarely have interactions with police officers. But everybody goes to doctors.

Anonymous said...

After viewing the video, it is interesting to note what seemed to motivate Gloria in getting her way:
1) She wanted to be in control of the time of her death
2) She was embarrassed to die screaming;
3) She alluded a lot to the fear of loss of dignity, but everyone around her treated her with a lot of care and dignity. Saying I want to die because I fear seeing myself lose my dignity.
4) But mostly it was her FEAR, and regular expression of the fear of the unknown that came through.

Interestingly, she said she prayed that the court case would go her way, and when it was favorable to her desires, she thanked God. But as she thought of the lawyers who had fought so hard for her, and talked about giving them a bottle of champagne for their efforts to help her, she came to tears. When asked "why are you upset," she said: I'm not upset, but it's distressing. I'm tired of doing what everyone wants me to do. I'm tired of this whole thing lately." No doubt she had some second thoughts. She seemed to understand that what she was doing to change these laws was monumental.

Some time later she is in a lot of pain, and hesitates to call for an ambulance. The cameraman feels she should call herself. They discuss whether going to the hospital and discovering it was only constipation would be embarrassing, but she is consoled when someone says it could be embarrassing, but it's better than not going and not finding out and then dying from it. That was sad. So... interestingly, even though she can at this point control the time of her death, she still chooses to seek care. She could have stayed home.
Her whole story is one of overcoming fear of the unknown, and in the end, she died without the dignity of being in control. Her fears were couched in the words of "embarrassment" and "loss of dignity". They are legitimate expressions of feelings, but not reasons to end your life.
Her desire for a peaceful death on her terms did not equate to any peace on the parts of her sisters and friends. You could see the battle raging in each one trying to come to grips with what she was going to do. It may have given them the pressure to release her and come to grips with it, but it was not natural by any means. If we would ask that family today about the circumstances of her death, I don't doubt that they would say they were relieved that she did not ask a doctor to help her die in the end. Unless she did.

Unknown said...

Listen up everyone weather you believe in God or not it makes no difference to me because I do believe in God and would not want to live on this earth if there was no God as God is my only hope.And so I am warning you that God does exist and we are all part of His Holy Creation and we do carry God's Image .therefore no man has the right to take a life including his own as God alone has such a right because He alone can give life .Taking ones life is Treason and punished by death of the soul that means hell forever and ever with satan as your lord .so do not listen to him but listen to God who loves you so much that he send His only Begotten Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to die for us so that we can be happy with him in heave for all eternity .Do not allow the infamous dirty beast to keep you from your true inheritance which is heaven .Your soul belongs to God and your body and all that goes with it also belong to God any harm that you cause to it will be punished by God.