A “rude wake-up for the death acolytes” in Canada

By Dave Andrusko

Hassan Rasouli's daughter Mojgan, left, and his wife Parichehr Salasel at his bedside at Sunnybrook Hospital.

Hassan Rasouli’s daughter Mojgan, left, and his wife Parichehr Salasel at his bedside at Sunnybrook Hospital.

National Right to Life News Today has already published five stories on two important euthanasia-related court cases in Canada. But what took place—or, what didn’t take place—October 10 and October 18 is so important I want to be sure everybody appreciates the magnitude of the victories.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist for The Star newspaper. Her observations—“Court stays off euthanasia’ slippery slope”—help all of us who live south of the border to fully appreciate what the British Columbia Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada did.

To be honest I didn’t put two and two together as quickly as I should have. The British Columbia Supreme Court had determined that Canada’s ban against physician-assisted suicide was unconstitutional.

But on October 10, in a split 2-1 decision, the British Columbia Court of Appeal overturned that ruling, meaning the ban is constitutional. The last time the court had reviewed the law was 20 years before, and while the majority concluded that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms law had evolved, it had not done so to the point where the 1993 decision should be set aside.

Eight days later

“in a case that might seem to have little in common with the B.C. matter, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 5-2 against two Sunnybrook Hospital doctors who had stubbornly sought to remove a severely brain-damaged patient from life support, over the objections of his family. The decision applies only to cases in Ontario and does not address the broader ethical questions.”

As many NRL News Today readers know, the case revolved around 61-year-old Hassan Rasouli, “on a ventilator and feeding tube since catastrophic complications following brain surgery three years ago.” Two physicians were adamant that Rasouli was in a persistent vegetative state, that any treatment would be “futile,” and that they could unilaterally cease treatment over the family’s vigorous objections.

“Even a layperson with no medical degree — unlike Rasouli’s wife, who was a physician in her native Iran — could see the man is not in a vegetative state,” DiManno wrote. “Indeed, neurologists have upgraded his condition to ‘minimally conscious.’ There is brain activity and he might indeed still make a marked recovery.”

In DiManno’s opinion, “On both counts, it must have come as a rude wake-up for the death acolytes to discover they do not have the sympathetic ear of top courts in this country.”

As we look ahead, among the most important points she makes is that just as the proponents of physician-assisted suicide never give up, so, too, must opponents. And part of that is to understand that this is not a “progressive” position. DiManno writes

“And, while death huggers pretend that it’s only a matter of time before governments catch up with the learning curve, as if Canada is somehow on the reactionary end of the spectrum, I would remind that out of 196 countries on the planet in 2013, only three allow assisted suicide: Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands. In America, three states have passed laws permitting limited euthanasia: Oregon, Washington and Vermont.

“This is not a vanguard movement and Canada is hardly out of step with global attitudes, though proponents of euthanasia — which is the correct term, rather than the deceptive tautology of ‘Death with Dignity’ — would have us believe otherwise.”

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