Friday, May 13, 2016

Will Johnston - speech euthanasia on euthanasia Bill C-14 - Victoria BC - May 12, 2016

Dr Will Johnston
Dr Will Johnston
Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of BC

I have a dream, and in that dream the Parliament of Canada debates far into the night to perfect a new law. The new Bill has the support of the majority of our elected representatives. It strives to get just the right balance between Federal and Provincial powers over matters of life and death. In my dream hundreds of Canadians testify before Committees and Panels and town hall meetings. They all want a better Canada. In my dream our Parliament is working against a deadline to get a law into place which honors the highest aspirations of our civilization. Finally the law has passed through the Senate and passed through Parliament and one day, let’s imagine June 6 of the year in my dream, the law goes into force.

What a law! What an achievement, worth every one of those late nights of intense Parliamentary debate and Special Joint Committees and Provincial Territorial Expert Panels and External Panels and town hall meetings and letters and papers and open-line radio shows and documentaries.

In my dream the new law says that anyone in severe pain anywhere in Canada is treated like a cardiac arrest, an emergency which activates a team of specially trained people. Anyone who is depressed and suicidal, anywhere in Canada, is treated like a house on fire, with immediate attention from another team of specially but of course differently trained people. People who are trying to live independently with major disabilities are funded and equipped like a Canadian Olympic team should be. Families with children with disabilities are treated like royalty. Having a disability or having a family member with a disability guarantees you will be kept far above the poverty line, never below that line and forgotten in the economic ditch. A report of possible elder abuse is by law to be treated like an Amber Alert, and abusers exposed to the clear light of emergency inquiry.

What a dream. When the real Canada wakes up on June 6th, it will be to a new law far removed from my dream. Instead, our great nation labored and brought forth – what?- a legal excuse to protect a doctor or nurse from a murder charge as long as they are under the opinion that you fit the right criteria before your death is inflicted. The law will let someone else sign you up, unlimited doctor shopping to find two of them to agree you are better off dead, no independent objective review before the planned death, no required notification of family members, no need for you to be actually dying, no need to be offered alternatives to suicide, no guarantee the death certificate will state the true cause of inflicted death, no requirement for a pain control assessment, no ban on health care workers being intimidated to cooperate.

The new law is careful to protect doctors. Mind you, doctors are not protected in order to use their consciences, they are protected while making mistakes causing wrongful death.

The polls show that people can imagine choosing the time of their own deaths. People expect that when that time comes , they will be in control. They think they have been given a new right, but instead they have lost the protections built into the old law. Someone will have control, all right, just maybe not always you.

To reassure those euthanasia activists for whom the new law could never go far enough, the preamble to the law promises that once the dust has settled we will look at killing children, and people whose only problems are psychiatric, and people who are cognitively disabled.

How could this happen? Parliament defeated at least 13 attempts to make such a law over the past 20 years. Basically, medically inflicted death got draped with medical prestige by the same brilliant marketing that sells everything else in our culture. The polls reflected a public who bought the marketing and didn’t get the whole picture. Then came the judges. Politicians are expected to watch the polls, judges are expected to apply the laws. Something got mixed up and judges started giving more deference to the polls than to Parliament. But judges who look to opinion polls are looking in the wrong place. Some things are wrong even when nobody will say they are. A wrong thing can’t be turned into something good and true by a poll, a judge, or a law.

So what can every one of us do?

Go to and click on” Federal Government” and send a letter to Members of Parliament or Senators or our Justice Minister. Conscience protection is the only way that a safe haven can be maintained in our health care system. Remember that our Catholic hospitals are our best chance to keep safe places for our families in the health care system. Be ferocious in the defence of these hospitals and do anything you can to support them.

At the start of this speech I listed truly good things waiting to be done. Be full of gratitude for the freedom to do good and do it any way you can.

Dr Will Johnston.

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