Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Assisted suicide makes us complicit in another's death.

Andrew Coyne, a former editor of the National Post, published another excellent article, today, in the National Post - Assisted Suicide makes us all complicit in another's death.

Andrew Coyne
oyne begins by defining assisted suicide:
By now it should be clear what assisted suicide is not about. It is not about the right of mentally competent adults to end their own lives, or to refuse treatment that might save it: that right has long existed, and is not in question. 
Indeed, it is not about mentally competent adults, suffering unendurable pain at the end of their lives, at all. That may be how most people imagine the issue, and may be how it is still justified by those who have not been paying attention. It may even be, for now, the limits set out in Bill C-14, federal legislation authorizing “medical assistance in dying.”
Coyne comments on the political turmoil related to Bill C-14.
But it is equally clear this is just the start. What once was the furthest limits of the imaginable, something permitted in only a few other countries on Earth, is now the baseline. The senators who, armed with a democratic mandate from exactly no one, are vowing to delay or defeat the bill are not doing so because it goes too far: because, say, it does not require the patient’s consent in all cases, but allows another adult to sign on their behalf; or because the 15-day waiting period is optional, at the doctor’s discretion; or because it does not require that death be imminent and inevitable, but only that it be “reasonably foreseeable.” 
No, the reason the bill is under fire is because, in the view of its critics, it does not go nearly far enough: specifically, because it does not allow for the termination of children, the mentally ill and those who book their demise in advance, in fear of finding themselves unable to consent at the time. Even worse, the bill would still require that death be somewhere in the offing, however vaguely: physical or psychological suffering on its own would not be sufficient. This was not a stipulation of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, which has lately become Holy Writ, or at least the parts that do not mention competent adults.
Coyne uncovers that the government intends to expand euthanasia over time.
For its part, the government gives every indication of being amenable to these changes. Asked on CTV how the government could have brought in “such a conservative” bill, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould replied, in effect, give us time. At which point it will become even more clear this is not about “end-of-life care” or “dying with dignity” or “assistance in dying,” or any of the other pleasant euphemisms in which the issue is now swaddled. It is not about easing the pain of dying, but easing the pain of living. It is about helping people to kill themselves who are not in any danger of dying, but find their lives, for a variety of reasons, intolerable. 
Again, this is explicit among its advocates. For the writer Sandra Martin, for example, author of The Good Death, “I might want to say if I can no longer speak, if I no longer can recognize my family, if I can no longer take care of my own bodily functions — then it would be unacceptable for me to carry on living.” Others have argued that it should apply to those suffering from depression. In Belgium, as Rachel Aviv writes in The New Yorker, doctors have been authorized to kill not just in cases of depression, but also “autism, anorexia, borderline personality disorder, chronic-fatigue syndrome, partial paralysis, blindess coupled with deafness, and manic depression.”
Coyne then opens the question - does assisted suicide effect our attitudes towards suicide?
Very well. Suppose we legalized assisted suicide in all the ways demanded. Suppose we were then presented with children, suffering from a mental illness — severely depressed, perhaps — but non-terminal, who expressed a strong desire to kill themselves. Suppose, that is, we were dealing with the situation reported in Attawapiskat today. On what basis would we deny them their request? 
That has been the convention to date. We do not accommodate people, let alone children, who want to kill themselves. We try to stop them, by force if necessary, a desire to kill oneself having been seen until now as prima facie evidence of mental incapacity. You see a guy standing on a ledge, you pull him in. But assisted suicide asks us to invert that convention: not merely to allow the suicide to proceed, but to facilitate it, indeed to subsidize it. Doctors who refuse to provide this “service,” or at the least to refer patients who request it to others, may face disciplinary action. 
This is what it means to normalize suicide. While the preamble to Bill C-14 takes pains to affirm the “inherent and equal value of every person’s life” and expresses a desire to avoid “encouraging negative perceptions of the quality of life of persons who are elderly, ill or disabled,” that is the unmistakable message we would be sending: some lives are not worth living. Suicide prevention advocates, likewise, are adamant that suicide not be presented as a rational alternative to suffering. Yet that is exactly what we would be doing.
Coyne finishes by explaining how assisted suicide makes us complicit in another's death.
We seem powerless, nevertheless, to resist. Arguments for assisted suicide are couched in the language of personal autonomy, of the inviolable rights of the individual. But if it were only a matter of an individual wishing to take his own life, there would be no debate. The difference between assisted suicide and suicide is the involvement of another individual, or individuals, and so far as we permit their involvement it implicates us all. 
Do we not see what a fundamental change is entailed — not merely in our attitudes to death but to life? Perhaps this is a step we wish to take, as a society. But we are just as entitled to decide not to.


Linda Swab said...

Bravo, Andrew Coyne. Your skills with the English language and ability to "call a spade a spade" should be hitting Canadians right between the eyes today. Hopefully they will finally see where this is heading and how far reaching the effects of this Bill will be.

George Epp said...

Coyne makes a common logical error: preventing change on the basis of "what it will or might lead to" is a fallacy we seem to pull out when logic falls short. Physician assistance in dying is absolutely the loving thing to do in the high profile cases in the news recently. The arguments against the bill focuses less on the people who are in need of it and more on the reluctance of those who would perform the assistance and the protection of their consciences.

Audrey Laferriere said...

Not only are we complicit, we are also complicit for the many collateral murders that will occur as the safeguards are not safe. We are not at war, so collateral damage should not happen. All lives matter. audreyjlaferriere@gmail.com

Rod Taylor said...

Yes, Thank You! Andrew Coyne. You have masterfully presented the situation from a variety of angles. Keep up your good work!

Marcel D'Eon said...

He is not guilty of the Slippery Slope fallacy. He is describing where we are going and asking the question if that is where we want to be. He is not arguing against the Supreme Court decision but a situation clearly advocated by some and supported by the our government. If we accepted your criticism we would never consider the future consequences of our present decisions.

Audrey Laferriere said...

To George Epp, the high profile media cases are good news stories now but what is going to happen later. Safeguards will be circumvented and deaths will be hastened Why did the Supreme Court of Canada take out the word "non-ambivalent" from the Carter decision in 2012. The good doctors do not want anyone to change their minds; it would disrupt their flow of work.

And forget about the good doctor thing as most of us do not have a family doctor and if we have they are in transition (temporary).

audreyjlaferriere@gmail.com 604-321-2276

Dave Jackson said...

The ultimate decision for an assisted-death must belong to the individual, (after earlier discussions with family, friends and other relevant people).

It is not for an outsider to dictate actions based on their own personal beliefs.
However, a doctor should not have to participate due to religious or moral objections.

Therefore, Bill C-14 should be a ‘fine-tuning’ of the governments' own ‘Report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying’
And, just like the doctors, the parliamentarians with objections should simply not participate in the voting.

Ak Rhodes said...

Can someone please tell me how a conceptual safeguard will stop a physical act? The Bill allows anyone to kill; it's in the text wording. The Bill also allows someone to kill "if they think death is immanent" irregardless of the 15 day waiting period. That's in the text wording also. What is not in the wording? Penalties for killing someone in error (oops!) or by coercion. What else isn't in the Bill? Conscience protection. Next stop, children and teens; secondary decisionmakers; and death for those with dementia.

Audrey Laferriere said...

Are you aware of the case in Dutchland wherein a son killed his mother and he got off. There were laws and yet the son did it. So now we have to be afraid of our families killing us. The slippery slope is here.

Jule Koch said...

George Epp - physician "assistance" is where the doctor kills you. If I "assist" someone to cross the street, it doesn't mean that I injected them with poison. If I assist someone to do their homework, it doesn't mean that I poisoned them to death.
Andrew Coyne describes where we are today, because today someone like you calls injecting people with poison "assistance".

Jule Koch said...

Dave Jackson, when someone injects poison into another person at their request, two people's choices are involved, not one.

Dave Jackson said...

In Oregon three people are involved; the doctor prescribing, the pharmacist providing, and the dying individual taking, at home.

Any of the three have the right of refusal. And I suggest the doctor's act is one of compassion.

Alex Schadenberg said...

Being involved in the act of killing or causing death is not compassionate, but rather it is an abandonment of a person in their time of need. There is nothing compassionate about providing a lethal dose. Providing good symptom management is compassionate.

Ak Rhodes said...

Dave Jackson:
"Not for an outsider to dictate actions based on their personal beliefs..."

So why does the government legislate on killing instead of having euthanasia enthusiasts do it to each other in-house, as it were?

Because it's about social control.

Dave Jackson said...

Questioning and discussing is good.

Allow Me to Die: Euthanasia in Belgium

Máire Ní Bhroin said...

Well said Mr. Coyne! Once we 'invert' the principle of protecting life we , the people of Canada, lose. People will no longer be motivated to help suicidal children, teens and young and older adults & people with mental illness, disabilities and chronic illnesses. It will be as if Canadians gave a collective shrug and said 'Who cares?' I despair of that heartless attitude, as we will no longer be a 'just society' as former P M. Pierre Trudeau envisioned and Christ's message to 'love one another' will be dead. As Thomas Merton said 'The whole idea of compassion is based on keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings which are all part of one another and involved in one another.' Where will we find our future when our humanity is gone?A Canada without a heart will soon lose its' soul.