Tuesday, September 8, 2015

National Post View: The slippery slope of assisted dying.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The National Post published an editorial titled: National Post View - The slippery slope of assisted dying on September 8, 2015. The editorial focuses on the recent announcements in Québec concerning the proposed implementation of the euthanasia law that is scheduled to occur on December 10, 2015. The editorial first comments on Quebec euthanasia:
Up to now in Canada, euthanasia and assisted suicide have been ideas to be debated according to general principles. That phase is over, at least in Quebec, where Bill 52 legalizes euthanasia (euphemized as “medical aid in dying.”) With the program set to get under way in December, it is now about the nuts and bolts of the deed. 
In preparation, the province’s college of physicians has issued kits to be made available to health professionals who will do the killing by lethal injection. In an interview with the National Post, college of physicians secretary, Dr. Yves Robert, was at pains to stress the fact that Bill 52 “is clearly not euthanasia on demand,” and that it will remain limited to mentally fit adult patients suffering from an incurable and irreversible late-stage illness.
The editorial then examines the assisted dying practice in other jurisdictions
... A great deal of research and reporting on those jurisdictions that permit euthanasia and/or assisted suicide suggest that the words “slippery slope” are more than mere alarmism, as proponents of euthanasia tend to insist. In every state or country in which the practice has been normalized, it has also, to some degree, become banalized, with eligibility criteria increasingly relaxed. Common patterns in all jurisdictions in Europe that allow euthanasia or assisted suicide show increasing numbers over time, and a shift from a focus on terminal cancer to other diseases, including psychiatric conditions (the Quebec law does not rule out intolerable psychological pain as a criterion). Supposed safeguards also decline in frequency. 
In Oregon, for example, where assisted suicide has been legal for almost 20 years, and which is often touted as a model because criteria have remained stable, people with depression and anxiety disorders seeking death are supposed to be weeded out. But, as Dr. William L. Toffler, national director of Physicians for Compassionate Care, points out in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, “some doctors see suicide as a solution to suffering and depression as rational given patients’ circumstances.” As a result, only three of the 105 patients who died under the law in 2014 were referred for a psychological exam. A 2008 study examining Oregonians who sought information on assisted suicide, published in the British Medical Journal, concluded that Oregon’s law “may not adequately protect all mentally ill patients.” 
Common patterns in all jurisdictions in Europe that allow euthanasia or assisted suicide show increasing numbers over time, and a shift from a focus on terminal cancer to other diseases.
The editorial then responds to what Canada needs to do to care for its citizens:
Assisted dying is rapidly acquiring the aura of a “right” that all enlightened and progressive-minded people should naturally embrace. We resist that idea. People have a right to excellent medical care. They have a right to as pain-free a death as humanly possible. We would argue that every Canadian who needs it has a right to palliative care and a hospice bed if it is needed for a good death. But there is no inherent right to demand the state end your life for you, whatever the Supreme Court’s efforts to discern one in the Constitution’s invisible ink. 
... 
Many people are not aware that very ill patients are already empowered to reject further medical treatment, and already have the right to a medicalized twilight state in the late stages of terminal disease, which hastens the dying process. This legal practice in easing the passage to death may seem very much like euthanasia. But it isn’t. Because, unlike the ground under Quebec’s Bill 52, it is not slippery and it is not on a slope.
The National Post continues to publish well researched and caring articles on assisted dying.

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