Saturday, May 6, 2023

Euthanasia of Canadian prisoners. Is it a form of capital punishment?

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Tristan Hopper published an excellent article in the National Post on Thursday May 4, 2023 about Canadian prisoners who are dying by euthanasia. Hopper begins by stating that Canada's last capital punishment death occurred 61 years ago, but now euthanasia of Canadian prisoners eerily except that capital punishment usually has oversight.

Hopper writes that nine prisoners have died by euthanasia in Canada. The APTN network reported that the first three prisoners to die by euthanasia were indiginous Canadians who remained shackled during the killing.

Ivan Zinger
Ivan Zinger, Canada's Correctional Investigator, told Kathleen Martens reporting for the APTN network, that euthanasia should never be done in the prison. He stated:
“Under no circumstances should the procedure of MAiD be dealt with inside a penitentiary,”

“That is highly problematic, unethical and immoral in my view. I think we would be the only jurisdiction in the world who would do that.”Kim Beaudin, vice-chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and a member of corrections’ National Aboriginal Advisory Committee opposes (MAiD) euthanasia being done in prisons. 
Beaudin told Martens that 32% of Canadians in prison are indiginous and stated:
“I’m not in support of (the law) because I’ve always believed there should be hope for them to get out of there,” Beaudin says.

“But a lot of people have given up; a lot of Indigenous people have given up inside.”
Canada has the highest rate of euthanasia for prisoners. Hopper wrote:
Canada’s rate of in-custody MAID is well beyond that of any other jurisdiction in which assisted suicide is legal. Everywhere else, the procedure is either not done or has yielded no more than one instance that qualified under special circumstances.

Belgium — which legalized assisted suicide in 2002 — granted euthanasia to its first prisoner just this year. Geneviève Lhermitte, who murdered her five children in 2008, convinced authorities that she was so wracked by guilt and suicidality that she met the criteria for assisted death.

Notably, Belgium’s first instance of a prisoner requesting assisted suicide turned into a national legal controversy that ultimately ended with the prisoner — serial rapist and murderer Frank Van den Bleeken — being denied Belgium’s usual “right to die” in 2015.
In March 2021, Canada eliminated the "terminal illness" requirement for euthanasia. Some Canadian prisoners who are serving life sentences are considering euthanasia as a way out of prison. Hopper reports:
The University of Calgary’s Jessica Shaw is one of the only researchers to examine the phenomenon of MAID in Canadian prisons. In a 2021 study, she interviewed nine inmates about the topic, and while all of them dismissed concerns that prisoners would be pressured into MAID, half were open to the idea of assisted suicide as an alternative to serving a long sentence.
Hopper reported Shaw as saying:
“I’ve considered it already, because I’ve got (decades) in. I look at it, if they could say, ‘Okay, you’re never getting out,’ this is something that I would do. That I would consider,” said one.
A CTV news report by Avis Favaro, CTV News Medical Correspondent reported concerns with the extension of euthanasia to people with mental illness in relation to euthanasia of prisoners. Favaro reported:
Another concern looms for Zinger and Shaw, as the criteria for applying for MAID will likely expand in March of next year to include mental illness as a sole reason for requesting assisted death.

Zinger says data from CSC indicates 75 per cent of those imprisoned federally have a current mental health diagnosis, while other studies show prison life itself can worsen mental health.

"If the provisions are extended to include mental illness, there could be a lot more people that become eligible," Zinger said, calling for more transparency in discussing MAID among prisoners. "I believe that (CSC) should be reporting it in an open that we can track it better and we can ensure that how it's being provided is in sync with the legislation and human dignity.”
Euthanasia in Canada is out-of-control for several reasons. The first is that the language of the law lacks any real definition. A second clear problem is that in Canada euthanasia is not viewed as a "last resort" but rather it is interpreted to be a medical act.

Canada must completely re-evaluate it's euthanasia law. Canada is heading towards a system of killing on demand.

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