As a general principle, the means taken to address an issue should be proportional to the issue itself. We do not, for instance, use a baseball bat to swat a fly.
The specific point of this series of articles has been to demonstrate that there is very little organic consumer demand for euthanasia as compared to the scale as it is currently being developed and marketed in Canada.
Let us briefly resume our evidence:
A great deal of literary romance has been created around the idea that survivors of catastrophic injury, and particularly those paralysed by damage to their spinal cords would naturally rather die than live in such a diminished state. In actual fact, however, only about one percent of these people will really commit suicide (in the entire first critical five years following injury) and subsequent suicide rates for this group are statistically normal.
In the worst phase of the AIDS epidemic, that is in the late eighties and early nineties (before effective treatments were available), a literary romantic ideal of voluntary death arose within the homosexual community which sparked the most powerful suicide trend ever seen. Assisted suicide became a community ritual. Universal approval was shown throughout the literary class. However, in actual fact, only somewhat less than two percent of people living with AIDS died by suicide during that period, and following that time, suicide rates among this group have returned, essentially, to normal (when adjusted for other factors such as high suicide among intravenous drug users who also belong to this cohort).
In sum, spinal injury and AIDS were the two most important areas where it was claimed that assisted suicide must be provided in order to satisfy a genuine (and justified) demand. “Normal” people were universally groomed to believe that “they”, also, would wish to die should they be injured, or become ill, in such ways. But none of that literary work of idealized voluntary death was based upon reality.
More recently, we have been assailed with literary depictions of death in circumstances of excruciating and unmanageable suffering. Euthanasia, we are told is the only route to humane end-of-life care. Terminal cancer, in particular, was described as a condition which could only rationally end in euthanasia. “Normal” people, once again, were groomed to believe that they would, indeed, wish to be euthanatized at such a time.
(It is mysteriously omitted from this portrait that the control of discomfort is now infinitely superior to anything ever known before; that people had been dying in much worse circumstances since the beginning of time; and that, far from hastening death, the development of humane society had been characterized by a growing recognition of the need to protect the dying from the murderous instincts of their entourage).
In actual fact, however (once again), we noted that in the most euthanasia-prone area of the world (the Netherlands and Flemish Belgium), after twenty years of wide-spread access to legal euthanasia, only approximately ten percent of terminal cancer patients currently die in that manner.
And therefore, bringing all of this information together, we see that the maximum organic demand for euthanasia (absent the powers of suggestion and institutional normality) would be: one percent of catastrophic injury survivors (spinal cord paralysis, amputees, etc.); perhaps two percent of degenerative illness sufferers (AIDS, ALS); and ten percent of terminal cancer patients. While for clarity, the corresponding rates of euthanasia refusal would be: 99, 98, and 90 percent respectively.
On the other hand, in order to provide euthanasia service in Canada, it has been decided: that the practice of medicine should be fundamentally altered by declaring euthanasia as a benign form of medical care; that all patients possess a universal, state-guaranteed right to that care; that all doctors and other medical staff be granted a literal “licence to kill” in the institutional context; that euthanasia providers not even require individual selection or certification; that euthanasia be performed in all medical institutions; that, going forward, euthanasia be emphasized in training as a normal expectation of students and professionals; that the new culture of euthanasia attain institutional dominance through the suppression and replacement of euthanasia opposition in positions of medical leadership; and finally: that the imperative need for universal euthanasia access justifies the correspondingly inevitable development of therapeutic environments (hospitals and clinics) which will become increasingly (and predictably) more hostile to those patients (the vast statistical majority) who will still refuse to voluntarily receive the “assistance” in dying that has been so reasonably provided for them.
And all of this (the popular romantic literary pornography of “intolerable suffering” notwithstanding) done in order to address an organically expressed demand from one, two, or in some specialties, perhaps, a maximum of ten percent of the clientele.
In other words: conceived merely as a consumer-driven economic phenomenon, euthanasia (as currently provided through the Canadian public healthcare system) makes no sense whatsoever!
This is indeed an astonishing but largely unstated fact which is of the greatest importance for Canadian citizens; because nothing in the realm of public policy happens for nothing; and therefore: If the reason for maximizing euthanasia availability is NOT economic – is NOT meant to satisfy consumer demand -- then what on earth IS it for?
And with that question in mind, I now intend (with the reader’s permission), to begin a new series of articles entitled: What is the “Good” of Euthanasia? Which will examine exactly what place (if any) assisted death might more appropriately claim to occupy among us; in consideration of the various moral (and other) justifications currently offered for providing (or restraining) this practice.This article is the seventh in a series of articles:
- Who really wants to die? Part 1: A brief quantative analysis of the purported "need" for euthanasia (Link).
- Who really wants to die? Part 2: The popular impact of celebrity suicide (Link).
- Who really wants to die? Part 3: Life choices of the common person (Link).
- Who really wants to die? Part 4: The true scale of demand for euthanasia in Canada (Link).
- Who really wants to die? Part 5: The absence of suicidal desire amongst the survivors of catastrophic injury. (Link).
- Who really wants to die? Part 6: Aids in the Eighties and Nineties and the literary ritual of assisted suicide. (Link).
Gordon Friesen, November 19, 2020