In a shocking unanimous decision yesterday, Canada’s Supreme Court overturned the long-standing countrywide ban on doctor assisted death. The ruling applies to the whole country.
Because the ruling did not, as far as we can glean from newspaper reports, require that the poison by which a person’s life would be ended must be self administered, we are going to refer to what the court allowed and directed the Canadian Parliament to regulate as doctor-caused death, rather than as assisted suicide or euthanasia.
The ruling said self-chosen death with medical assistance is a right for anyone who believes that his or her suffering is “irremediable” in his or her life circumstances. It specifically avoided making terminal illness a determining criterion and appeared to leave the choice of what defines “irremediable suffering” up to the patient, and the choice of whether or not to kill or help the patient commit suicide up to the doctor.
We await a detailed legal analysis of this ruling. It appears that the one limitation to a doctor’s killing someone or facilitating his or her suicide is that the patient must make a request.
The experience of other places where assisted suicide and euthanasia are considered rights countrywide tells us that that limitation won’t last.
Belgium and the Netherlands are the two countries where both assisted suicide and euthanasia have been legal countrywide for a number of years. In those countries we know that the number of doctor caused deaths has skyrocketed, that people, including disabled newborns and people suffering from dementia, are being killed without any pretense of consent, and that physicians are taking to the pages of medical journals to defend these deaths on the basis of the “help” they afford to the patients’ families. Here are two links, one to an article citing articles in Dutch that the authors translated, and the other to a statement by the Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine, published in English The Journal of Critical Care in 2014.
A new book, Do You Call This A Life?: Blurred Boundaries in The Netherlands’ Right-To-Die Laws, discusses the culture created by the laws in the Netherlands, a culture characterized by extreme abhorrence of disability and, in addition to outright and admitted killing, the steering of people with disability towards hastened death. Here is a link to a review:http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/01/28/barbara-kay-euthanasia-is-so-accepted-that-doctors-must-now-justify-prolonging-a-life/.
True Dignity is surprised and dismayed that Canada, so close to the US in both geography and culture, is taking the route the proponents of assisted suicide tell us we will never take here.
Canadian sources are posting today that Parliament can legally refuse to turn this ruling into law. There is a petition online at https://www.lifesitenews.com/petitions/stop-assisted-suicide-in-canada. According to the website, “The Supreme Court has given Parliament a year to enact a new law. But Parliament has the power to act right now – by invoking the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ little-used “notwithstanding clause,” which allows Parliament to override a court ruling.”
People from the US and all over the world should sign this petition. What Canada does about assisted suicide will have a profound effect elsewhere. If legislators, judges and voters come to see assisted suicide and euthanasia as rights, these practices, rejected in most parts of the world since ancient times, will surely spread. If we let that happen, make no mistake. None of us will be safe.
In the meantime, legislators in the Colorado House of Representatives’ Public Health and Human Services Committee voted 8-5 to defeat a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/07/us-usa-colorado-suicide-idUSKBN0LB07L20150207). That is good news.