|Dr Paul Saba|
As the state of New Hampshire considers establishing an end-of-life choices study commission, I strongly advise against this. This will only lead down the same dark road that Canada has travelled. Although in the United States euthanasia and physician assisted suicide falls under state jurisdiction, in Canada this falls under both Federal and Provincial jurisdictions.
Presently, Canada is proposing doctor assisted suicide and euthanasia of its most vulnerable citizens including children who are “mature minors” and the depressed.
Children possibly as young as 11 or 12 could see their lives ended prematurely without parental consent or prior notification. The serious consequences of enacting such a provision is illustrated by the case of Nadine (Video Link). At 14 years old, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. She underwent multiple chemotherapies and a failed bone marrow transplant. She was told that she had little chance to survive. She states that without the loving support of her family, she would have given up. Today at 19 she is well and happy to be alive.
History has taught us that killing the weak and vulnerable is a formula for disaster. The Romans encouraged the weak, sick and depressed to kill themselves. In 1938, Germany started euthanizing handicapped children. Today, Belgium and the Netherlands euthanize children, the depressed and those tired of life.
As a physician with dual USA and Canada citizenship, I have studied and practiced medicine in both countries. I presently live in Montreal. As President and Founder of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice my progressive ideas have included promoting quality medical care for the poor, incapacitated, the elderly and the young. However, I do not consider euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide as progressive. Presently in the province of Quebec many citizens have already been euthanized under a cloud of government controlled secrecy despite a requirement of an oversight committee.
Physicians have been mandated by our provincial medical board not to write on the death certificate that their patients have been euthanized with the threat of sanctions and possible loss of their license. Physicians in Quebec and across Canada are awaiting the passage of a new federal law which will set national standards of extending euthanasia to children and the depressed. As a physician, I refuse to inject or refer any patient to be injected with a lethal substance. As a dad with young children, I will never give the right to another person to lethally inject my children or my neighbor’s children. For these reasons I have launched court challenges in the province of Quebec to stop this law. Disobeying the euthanasia law risks the possible loss of my medical license. Why am I opposing this law?
First, and foremost, every life is valuable.
Second, there are errors in medical diagnosis in up to 20% of cases.
Third, prognosis may be incorrect, as in the case of Nadine.
Fourth, “mature children’ do not have the psychological or cognitive ability to reason like adults—that is why they cannot drive, vote, enter into civil contracts or get married.
Fifth, a depressed person cannot make a free and informed decision to end her/his life because of feelings of hopelessness.
Sixth, people faced with a serious diagnosis are more likely to be depressed.
Seventh, quality medical care includes providing palliative care -- which is different from euthanasia. Doctors can reduce the suffering of end-of-life patients’ with palliative care. However, unfortunately many Canadians and Americans do not have access to quality palliative care.
Eighth, the few jurisdictions that practice euthanasia are unable to establish workable safeguards. For example: in Belgium, 32% of euthanasia deaths are performed without specific request or consent; and, 47% of cases go unreported.
Ninth, many civilized societies (e.g. the United Kingdom. Scotland and France) have recently rejected such legislation because of the inherent dangers to its citizens.Governments and healthcare providers should adequately fund and provide the best health care for all its citizens and especially the children. Euthanizing citizens may save money, but this goes against all decent civilized human values.
Tenth, euthanasia and assisted suicide are denounced by the World Medical Association that represents 9 million doctors in over 100 countries.
Will New Hampshire go down the same dark road of Canada and euthanize its citizens? What about the children, the depressed and those tired of life? What about those too sick and too poor to fight for their lives?
Therefore I ask you not to establish an end-of-life choices study commission. This will only lead New Hampshire down the same dark road that Canada has travelled. The evidence is overwhelming clear—euthanasia and assisted suicide is not the solution for suffering. Many wise people have stated that insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Our citizens need to be cared for and not killed. How we treat the most vulnerable in our society, is a measure of who we are as a society.
Dr. Paul Saba M.D.