Depressed Man Euthanized in Canada

By Wesley J. Smith

Once a society accepts killing as an acceptable response to suffering, the nature of the “suffering” that qualifies for termination keeps expanding.

That process is well underway in Canada, where the law requires that death be “reasonably foreseeable” before a doctor can legally commit the homicide of a patient upon request.

That doesn’t provide much shelter to begin with. Moreover, the BC medical society has opined that if a patient doesn’t qualify for euthanasia, they can self-starve until weak enough to qualify for death. How’s that for compassion?

Now, news comes out that a depressed man, who was not close to being terminally ill, was put down in a hospital despite opposition from family. From the CTV News story:

British Columbia man who struggled with depression and showed no signs of facing an imminent demise was given a medically-assisted death despite desperate pleas from his loved ones, family members say.

Alan Nichols was admitted to Chilliwack General Hospital in June, at age 61, after he was found dehydrated and malnourished. One month later, he died by injection.

Days before his death, family members begged Nichols, a former school janitor who lived alone and struggled with depression, not to go through with the procedure. They still don’t know why doctors approved the life-ending procedure and insist that Nichols did not fit the government criteria of facing an “imminent death.”

“He didn’t have a life-threatening disease. He was capable of getting around. He was capable of doing almost anything that you had to do to survive,” his brother, Gary Nichols, told CTV News. “I didn’t think he had a sound mind at all.”

Can you imagine? You learn your loved one is going to be killed and you can’t do anything to stop it?

How can this be? I have a theory. Euthanasia can become highly ideological, with the killing imperative eclipsing the duty of care. (Think Jack Kevorkian.) If the family is accurately recounting what happened to Nichols, the ideological drive to euthanize may be an issue in this homicide:

On July 22, they received a shocking phone call from a doctor who said that, in four days’ time, Nichols was scheduled for an assisted death. According to the family, the doctor said they couldn’t provide any other information, including the medical reason for the procedure.

“I started crying,” Gary said. “I was at work and never thought it would get to that. Just never thought he would ever be approved even if he applied for it.”

Nichols’ sister-in-law, Trish Nichols, called the doctor to get more information.

“I was appalled by all of it and I said we want this stopped, this can’t happen. Our family doesn’t agree with this,” she said.

“(The doctor) said, ‘Well, you can’t stop this. Alan is the only person who can stop this.”

At the hospital, the family was told that two doctors had approved Nichols’ application for a medically assisted death, and that a psychologist and psychiatrist were there to assess Nichols’ competence.

The family was not given access to those medical records. They still don’t know what grounds doctors used to approve the application.

Will anything thing be done about this euthanasia death that would seem to be well outside the legal guidelines? We’ll see, but I’ll bet not. Indeed, if anything, the case could result in a loosening of the existing rules through judicial interpretation or prosecutorial non-enforcement.

That is what has happened again and again in Netherlands. Meanwhile, in Quebec, the “foreseeable death” guideline that apparently wasn’t followed here, was just declared unconstitutional. That will open the doors wide to a radical expansion of killing categories, leading to the same moral collapse we have seen in Netherlands and Belgium.

I fear many will shrug and say, “The man wanted to die. What else is there to think about?” That’s what happens when one embraces culture of death values.

Those with eyes to see, let them see.

Editor’s note. Wesley’s great columns appear at National Review Online and are reposted with his permission.