Friday, September 11, 2009

Euthanasia debate reignited

The Canadian Medical Journal (September 11, 2009) has published an article on the Quebec physicians debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide and the issues related to Bill C-384.

The article comments on the false concept that was presented by the Quebec physicians which is the use of analgesics to control pain is the same as euthanasia. The article states:
The task force, which does not support assisted-suicide clinics, is expected to release its specific recommendations in November in an effort to pressure the federal government to change the Criminal Code to legalize euthanasia. This is necessary, according to the College, because terminally ill patients sometimes suffer from pain so intense that the dose of painkillers required to control it can be fatal; therefore, in effect, euthanasia is already commonplace and the law should be changed to reflect that.

They then state:
That argument, however, is seen by some opponents of euthanasia as not only weak but nonsensical. Causing deaths through efforts to reduce pain, they argue, is very different than administering overdoses with the intent to end lives.

The article then correctly quotes Margaret Somerville who stated:
“Pain relief treatment is not euthanasia and giving increasing doses of narcotics can be incompetent medical practice ­ at a certain point different pain relief modalities can be required. Unfortunately, some physicians' medical knowledge is substandard in this regard,” Margaret Somerville, director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University and author of Death Talk: The case against euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, writes in an email to CMAJ.

I am then quoted in the article as stating:
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, likewise argues that the rationale offered to support the Quebec College of Physicians’ proposal is lacking. Providing comfort has nothing to do with intentionally ending a life, he says, and physicians are not charged for improper use of opioids if a patient dies as a result of accepted pain-relief practices.

“If we were to go down the route they are talking about, it would create more confusion,” says Schadenberg, who believes, if the College’s proposal became law, doctors would be under more scrutiny when patients on pain medication die. “Why did they use that high amount? Did they use it to kill the pain or kill the patient?”

The article then refers to Bill C-384:
Also expected to drive the euthanasia agenda this fall is Bill C-384, a private member’s bill introduced by Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament Francine Lalonde, that seeks amendments to the Criminal Code to permit the “right to die with dignity.”

The bill states that medical practitioners would not be considered to be committing homicide when they assist the deaths of people who are at least 18 years old, have severe “physical or mental pain without prospect of relief” and have “provided a medical practitioner, while appearing to be lucid, with two written requests more than 10 days apart expressly stating the person’s free and informed consent to opt to die.”

It then reports my comments by stating:
Schadenberg forecasts that, as with two previous attempts to legalize euthanasia, the bill will fail, in part because its language is too broad. He also takes particular issue with the phrase “appearing to be lucid.” That is quite different, he says, from actually being lucid, which in itself can be difficult to assess.

The fact is that the Quebec College of Physicians are using a straw man argument. The proper use of large doses­ of analgesics to kill pain is not the same as intentionally and directly causing the death of a person by a lethal dose. If a person dies from the proper use of analgesics to kill pain, the death is unintentional and should not be confused with euthanasia which is the direct and intentional death of a person.

Also, Bill C-384 is a bill that is really about giving physicians the right to directly and intentionally cause your death.

Canada needs to focus on Caring for people, not killing people.

Link to the article by Roger Collier, CMAJ at:

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