April 4, 2016
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
To the Honourable Prime Minister Trudeau,
I am writing to you out of deep concern for the legislation that will soon be drafted regarding physician assisted suicide. I am so concerned, that I produced videos on the websites, DearGodLetter.ca and CherDieuLettre.ca, in the hope that more Canadians would be informed about the potential ramifications of such legislation.
As a medical doctor, there are many arguments I could provide detailing why physician assisted suicide is wrong for Canada. But the one argument that many have overlooked is the very real likelihood that physician assisted suicide in Canada would actually lead to more pain and suffering in Canada—not less.
Let me explain:
As a pain specialist I have evaluated hundreds of car accident victims over the past several years. Interestingly, the patient suffering chronic pain from injuries sustained in the crash is almost always the victim—rarely the individual(s) responsible for the crash. Many falsely believe these patients are just trying to scam the system. While this might be the case in rare circumstances, almost always these victims have legitimate chronic pain.
Research has demonstrated that when the mind is clouded by negative emotions, such as anger, hate, bitterness, or depression, the body is unable to properly “turn off” pain signals arising from lower in the body. Car accident victims are often angry at the individual(s) who hit them, and frequently develop low mood and/or anxiety. All these negative emotions play a role in the development of chronic pain by way of something pain specialists call, “Central sensitization.” Peripheral sensitization and maladaptive central nervous system (i.e. brain) neuronal plasticity are also factors in the genesis of chronic pain.
How does this relate to physician assisted suicide?
If the recommendations provided by the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying become law, there will be many teenagers, parents, and grandparents killed against the will of their family members (especially those suffering from depression). Prime Minister Trudeau, it won’t be long and your children will be teenagers. You wouldn’t want someone to kill your teenagers against your will. Why then would you want to kill other teenagers against the will of their parents?
A family can eventually learn to forgive a member who rashly commits suicide on their own. However, it will be extremely hard—if not impossible—for Canadian families to forgive the doctors and politicians responsible for their loved one’s death. The same rage that the Goldman’s displayed against O. J. Simpson will be the same anger directed at you and many others by Canadian families. These angry family members will be at significantly greater risk of developing depression and anxiety, with a high likelihood of developing chronic pain from even minor injuries—and sometimes no injury at all. For every one person you kill against the will of the family, you run a very high risk of triggering a lifetime of mental and/or physical illness/pain in at least one family member—and possibly the entire family.
Furthermore, there are over 5,000 physicians across Canada in the Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience, committed to protecting conscience rights for health practitioners and facilities. Many will refuse to kill their patients, and refuse to refer patients to be killed. For every doctor’s license you consequently take away, you will erase on average at least 2,000 patient encounters per doctor per year. Then there’s the doctors who will just quietly leave the country, and those who will refuse to move to Canada because of the hostile environment where doctors are forced to work against their consciences. Then add to this the number of healthcare professionals who will drop out of palliative care and Geriatrics for fear of losing their licenses. Do the math and the number of Canadians affected are staggering.
Will all this not result in even more pain and suffering for Canadians in the end?
Yes, there will always be individuals who want to kill themselves at the first diagnosis of a chronic disease. And there will always be arguments saying that not everyone has equal access to quality palliative care across Canada where adequate pain control is very often achieved. But what kind of country would rather kill its citizens than provide the necessary care and compassion they deserve?
Will the Liberal Party be popular with Canadians 1 year, 2 years, or 3 years from now?
Will the Liberal Party be popular with the Person who created the teenagers, parents, and grandparents that you will kill?
Thank you very much for your kind attention to this letter.
Brad Burke, MD, FRCPC
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Cc The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice
Cc The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health