By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
For those who don’t believe that legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide will lead to incremental extensions (slippery slope) of the law, you only have to look to Canada.
In December the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition applied to intervene in the Lamb case in British Columbia. The Lamb case seeks to extend euthanasia to people who are not dying by striking the section of Canada’s euthanasia law stating that a person’s “natural death must be reasonably foreseeable.”
I note that the euthanasia law did not define the term “reasonably foreseeable.”
On Tuesday the Gladu case began to be heard in a Montreal court. Similar to the Lamb case, the plaintiffs in Gladu have degenerative disabilities but they are not terminally ill and they do not fulfill the requirement that their “natural death is reasonably foreseeable.”
The CTV news article on the Gladu case interviews, as its experts, Jocelyn Downie, the long-time euthanasia activist, and James Palmer, chair in public policy and law at Dalhousie University. Downie, who has written books and articles and has made the promotion of euthanasia her life-time work, agrees that the law is somehow too restrictive.
Downie tells CTV news:
“The criteria should be about suffering and autonomy,” she told CTV’s Your Morning.
“It has to be about your capacity for self-determination. So if you’re capable of making the decision and your experiencing and enduring intolerable suffering you should be allowed access assisted dying.”
She argued that the current laws are paternalistic and patronizing.
Downie advocates for no restrictions on euthanasia.
Gordon Friesen, a disability activist from Montreal, is quoted by CTV as saying that changing the legislation would leave many Canadians vulnerable.
“Since the end of the Second World War, nobody has dared to bring up the idea (that) a sick man’s life isn’t worth as much as another man’s, but now, they are doing it again.”
Friesen seems to recognize the similarities between the German T4 euthanasia program and what is being considered by this court case. Many may consider Friesen’s comments to be extreme but he could be right.
At the same time, Downie, with the help of the media, has orchestrated a campaign to force St. Martha’s hospital in Antigonish NS to participate in euthanasia.
A few days ago CBC news was busy promoting the expansion of euthanasia by focusing on the release of three reports from the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) concerning: euthanasia for children, euthanasia for incompetent people who previously asked for euthanasia, and euthanasia for people with psychiatric conditions alone.
It is interesting how the media ignores the fact that the CCA report leans toward opposing the extension of euthanasia to people with psychological conditions alone.
MAID [Medical Aid In Dying] law in Canada explicitly defines intolerable suffering in subjective terms. While a healthcare practitioner must “be of the opinion that” these conditions are met, if a patient truly believes their suffering is intolerable, and believes that existing means to relieve their suffering are not acceptable to them, they thereby meet the criteria for intolerable suffering set out in the legislation.
No other country permits MAID MD-SUMC where one of the eligibility criteria is based on an individual’s personal assessment of what conditions for relief of their intolerable suffering they consider acceptable. If Canada were to expand MAID MD-SUMC using this criterion, it could become the most permissive jurisdiction in the world with respect to how relief of suffering is evaluated.
The Gladu and Lamb cases will be decided, sometime in the future, by the Supreme Court of Canada. If the court strikes down the section of the euthanasia law requiring that a person’s “natural death must be reasonably foreseeable,” Canada would then have the most permissive euthanasia law in the world since it defines “intolerable suffering” in a completely subjective manner.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.