Monday, October 28, 2013

Letter: Euthanize Bill 52, not patients

The following letter was written by Dr Nicolas Newman and published in the Montreal Gazette on October 28, 2013

Do you need a hip replacement? If so, you might well qualify, instead, for medical aid in dying. (If you do not believe me, read section 26 of the proposed end-of-life Bill 52. The conditions under which someone would be eligible for medical aid in dying could apply to someone needing a hip replacement.)

A lethal injection is a lot cheaper than an operation, and may be more appealing to the hard-pressed taxpayer and to the finance minister who see the health-care budget going over the roof.

As a society, we are getting older and more decrepit, like it or not, and we can adjust to this by patching up our infirmities and planning for good palliation in particular toward the end of our lives — and good palliative care has never been better.

Or, confronted with mounting health-care costs, we can change the definition of medicine and encourage inexpensive lethal injection. This is the main object of the end-of-life or euthanasia Bill 52 currently before the National Assembly.

Of course, no one, we are assured, will be forced into medical-aid-in-dying: an undefined term, absurd as that sounds, that refers to lethal injection. The euthanasia Bill 52 proclaims freedom and autonomy, but how much autonomy do you have when sick and in pain? When lethal injection becomes good medicine and socially acceptable thanks to promised publicity, how will you react when told that the quickest, and taxpayer preferred, solution to your pain is lethal? Perhaps you prefer to endure on a waiting list? This is not my idea of autonomy.

True enough, a handful of unhappy people do want assisted-suicide or euthanasia, but how many more will feel pushed into this once lethal injection becomes legal?

Yes, as a doctor, Bill 52 does frighten me; even more than growing old.

Nicholas Newman MD FRCSC
Montréal QC

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