By Mark Pickup
Editor’s note. Mr. Pickup is a Canadian disability rights activist who has spoken at NRLC’s annual convention. This first appeared at the Western Catholic Reporter.
On Feb. 6, in a unanimous ruling, Canada’s Supreme Court struck down the law on assisted suicide. It was a terrible decision that will irrevocably change the character of Canadian society for the worse.
It will place the lives of vulnerable people across the land in great danger. It was not a victory for liberty. It was a victory for licence and abuse of human freedom.
The Supreme Court said the section of the Criminal Code prohibiting assisted suicide was in conflict with section seven of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That section states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
In their morally twisted ruling, the high court said, “We therefore conclude that section 241 and 14 of the Criminal Code, insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted dying for competent adults who seek such assistance as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering, infringe the rights to liberty and security of the person.”
The justices said the remedy is to allow physician-assisted suicide for a competent adult person who clearly consents to their termination of life.
Then they dropped their real bombshell and revealed how wide open the brave new Canadian landscape would be to death.
A person’s condition need not be terminal, rather a “medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition. ‘Irremediable,’ it should be added, does not require the patient to undertake treatments that are unacceptable to the individual.”
Within these broad gaping parameters, the court said suffering includes either physical or psychological pain. They threw the gates of assisted death wide open. The pied pipers of assisted suicide won. The court called the law against assisted suicide “cruel.”
They ignored the fact that 21st century palliative medicine can alleviate intolerable physical suffering. Modern medicine’s magnificent advances in pain management can be refused and the state must agree to euthanasia?
Is that the kind of society you want to live in? (In the new climate, be careful how you answer that question.)
The law was not cruel; the Supreme Court ruling will pave a path to all kinds of cruelties and abuse. People in physical pain need palliation not death. People in psychological pain need counselling therapy – even when they are in a fog of grief or depression and do not want it or recognize they need help.
MY JUDGMENT WAS CLOUDED
I know this from first-hand experience: At about the two- or three-year point in my downhill slide with MS, my grief was so profound and unimaginable, my sorrow so deep, my heartache so sharp, that my judgment was clouded.
If assisted suicide had been available in the mid-1980s, if I not had been enveloped in the love of God, and if my wife LaRee and others had not provided a life-affirming community, I may have taken my life at a low point. They lifted up my value even when I doubted it.
I am so glad that did not happen. I would never have known my five beautiful grandchildren.
I needed to safely grieve with the freedom to cry out, and not be helped with a death wish I might have expressed at my lowest point.
The court downplayed the first and highest “right to life” in favour of personal autonomy. They said the right to life must not require an absolute prohibition of assistance in dying.
STATEMENT RINGS HOLLOW
They quipped that it must not create a “duty to live” rather than a “right to life.” The judges stated, “The sanctity of human life is one of our most fundamental societal values.” That statement rings hollow, coming from the same court that struck down Canada’s abortion law. That prior odious decision resulted in no legal protection for prenatal life at any point of pregnancy.
The Supreme Court gave Parliament 52 weeks to enact a law for assisted suicide or there may be no law, just as with abortion. The killing is about to begin at the end of life.
Rights also carry responsibilities. If we accept there is right to life then surely we also have a responsibility to live the life we have been given until its natural end not only for ourselves but also the common good. My decisions impact others.
If I opt for assisted suicide, it will impact my wife, my children and my grandchildren. It will affect my doctor because I will ask her to stop being my healer and become my killer. It will impact my community and nation by helping to entrench the idea there are some lives unworthy of living.
Yes, I have a responsibility to live until life’s natural end. We are an interdependent community not autonomous beings in a jungle of self-interest.