By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Convivium published an excellent article written by Kiely Williams, a Calgary physician, and Faye Sonier, an Ottawa lawyer, titled “Open Wide and Say Law.”
Williams and Sonier explain how Bill C-7 expanded Canada’s euthanasia law [MAID—Medical Aid In Dying] in ways that physicians would not dare to go. They write:
Psychiatrist Dr. Mark Sinyor noted that the bill, which extends MAID to those with disabilities and mental illness, was not based on scientific study. As the disability community passionately stated, repeatedly and to no avail, C-7’s impetus was the conclusion of healthy, able-bodied people that the lives of those with disabilities and disease weren’t worth living. When they and the UN Human Rights Council’s rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities argued for better care, supports, and housing, they got physician-assisted suicide.
Dr. Sinyor showed that arguments for C-7 could be examined to see if MAID is the best treatment for those suffering various conditions. For example, the new legal concept of “intolerable suffering,” foundational in the MAID legislation, hasn’t been scientifically studied or defined. How often could high-quality mental health care alleviate such suffering? There’s no research to consult.
Williams and Sonier point out that politicians have decided that physicians would prescribe suicide in circumstances where there is no evidence on which to base these decisions. Bill C-7 not only expands the euthanasia parameters of the euthanasia law but it also changes medicine.
What politicians wouldn’t acknowledge is that they have fundamentally changed the doctor-patient relationship. It’s been thousands of years since physicians have purposely ended the lives of their patients. Since Hippocrates, if a patient died as a direct result of a physician’s actions, this was the ultimate failure in patient care. Now it is a “treatment” option. While rates of physician burnout and suicide are on the rise, this additional expectation which cuts against everything we believe is unconscionable.
Williams and Sonier continue by showing how Bill C-268, the conscience rights bill from MP Kelly Block, will once again enable physicians to make evidence based medical decisions.
When your physician advises you on a course of care, you should expect them to rely on their education, experience, and judgment. And you should expect it whether you have a questionable cough, a permanent disability, or Stage 4 cancer. For this reason, we support MP Kelly Block’s Bill C-268 on intimidation of health care professionals, which makes it an offence to coerce a medical professional into providing MAID or to fire them for refusing to participate in the procedure.
Block’s bill ensures that physicians can practice medicine in a way that considers the patient as an individual facing unique circumstances, and that these same physicians cannot be sanctioned for refusing to parrot federal law or hospital policy that cannot possibly account for all the factors involved in high-quality, patient-centered care.
The article ends by reiterating how Bill C-7 has changed medicine.
When MAID was first introduced in Canada, doctors and patients were emphatically promised that there would be safeguards to prevent abuse. Five years later these safeguards are gone, despite pleas from the disability community, aboriginal leaders, and palliative care physicians. This is not medicine.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.