Editor’s note. The following Open Letter comes from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
Subject: Bill 52, An act respecting end-of-life care
You will soon be called upon to vote on Bill 52, An act respecting end-of-life care. This bill requires that all hospitals and health care institutions in Quebec develop policies to facilitate the provision of “medical aid in dying,” which is simply another term for euthanasia. The bill, if passed, will require euthanasia to be provided upon request to any adult person with a Quebec health card.
There are significant concerns regarding the potential passage of this bill.
First, the criminalization of euthanasia is a well-established matter of federal jurisdiction. It is prohibited under the Criminal Code’s homicide provision.
In that regard, democratically elected Members of the federal Parliament have on multiple occasions in recent years given consideration to this matter in the House of Commons. Most recently, in 2008 MP Francine Lalonde introduced Bill C-384, An act to amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity). The bill sought to remove prohibitions against euthanasia and assisted suicide from the Criminal Code. In 2010, C-384 was resoundingly defeated by a vote of 228 to 59, as were two previous similar efforts since the turn of the century.
We are, however, most concerned about the impact of this bill on Quebec’s most vulnerable citizens. The experience of jurisdictions that have permitted the practice of euthanasia give great cause for sober reflection on this proposed legislation. Belgium, which legalized euthanasia in 2002, has just seen its Senate vote in favor of permitting euthanasia for children. This general devaluing of life is not isolated to Belgium but a trend seen in several jurisdictions which have attempted to authorize and contain the practice of euthanasia. In 1949, American psychologist Leo Alexander wrote in the New England Medical Journal of the shift that occurred in Germany after the legalization of euthanasia in 1935:
“It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic to the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick.
“Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted, and finally all non-Germans.”
As legislators, you know that culture can shape legislation; and, legislation can also shape culture, change hearts and transform opinion. To authorize free access to euthanasia has proven to lead to the general devaluing of human life. Both history and contemporary experience bear out this reality.
As Canada’s national association of evangelical Christians, we urge you not to consider whether faith-based reasoning is welcome, but whether morality can stand in contrast to fundamental principles of respect for human life. Please, vote against this bill.
In place of the measures in Bill 52, we urge you to support alternative proposals to increase funding and provision of palliative care centres and resources. For more information on our position and concerns, you can download a free copy of our analysis of the proposed legislation, Quebec`s Bill 52: Euphemisms for Euthanasia, available at www.theEFC.ca/Bill52Report.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s staff lawyers, Don Hutchinson and Faye Sonier, have joined lawyers from Quebec and across the country in signing a lawyers’ declaration against the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Please visit www.lawyersagainsteuthanasia.com to learn more about these lawyers’ reservations concerning decriminalization efforts.
Vice-President, General Legal Counsel