Pro-death argument comes full circle: Consent to die is a “cruel trap” euthanasia lobby says

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

When selling euthanasia (Medical Aid in Dying–MAiD) to the Canadian public, we were assured that consent would be a fundamental protection within the legislation. 

I have been challenged by people who have stated: “Who am I to stand in the way of someone who has consented to be killed?”

The issue of consent has come full circle with the passing of Bill C-7 on March 17. Now the debate is developing over the issue of MAiD for people with dementia who can no longer give consent.

Bill C-7 amended Canada’s MAiD law to permit an incompetent person to be lethally injected, if they had previously been approved for MAiD. That means, a person who was approved to die by euthanasia–but has since become incompetent– can still be killed, even though they are incapable of consenting at that time of their death.

As always the euthanasia lobby wants more. 

The euthanasia lobby wants people to state in an advanced directive, possibly years earlier, that they want to die by MAiD. They want this request for euthanasia to be legally binding later (even decades later) even though there is no way to confirm that the person still wants to die!

An article by Jocelyn Downie and Stephanie Green, published on April 21 in Policy Options, argues the new law–Bill C-7—is insufficient.

Downie is Canada’s leading academic euthanasia activist and Green operates a euthanasia clinic in Victoria, BC. Downie and Green argue that Bill C-7 didn’t go far enough. They state: 

Fortunately, due to some of the recent changes made to Canada’s legislation, some people with dementia have already been released from the cruel trap of the requirement of final consent.

Notice how consent is a “cruel trap,” not a safeguard, not an active assurance that a person wants to die, not a protection that people aren’t pressured and killed without consent, but rather a cruel trap.

Downie and Green emphasize how consent limits access to MAiD:

Unfortunately, there will still be many people with dementia who aren’t helped by this change to the law – specifically, those who lose decision-making capacity before their decline has become advanced or before their suffering has become intolerable. These people’s hopes to access MAiD hang on the work of a new joint committee of the House and Senate.

Downie is also a champion of women’s rights. Would it be acceptable to say that consent is a cruel trap when considering sex? Obviously not. Then why is consent a cruel trap when ending someone’s life?

Jurisdictions considering the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide usually debate the theory of assisted death, not the reality. The reality is that selling euthanasia requires the inclusion of so-called safeguards. However once it is legal, those safeguards then become, as Downie and Green state, cruel traps to accessing death.

One of the strongest sales pitches for legalizing euthanasia is the safeguard that it will be only for people who have consented to their death. Thus, the debate over consent is fundamental.

Once consent is not required, the only way to avoid the next “cruel trap” is to eliminate the requirement that someone has ever asked to be killed!

It will be argued that it is cruel to force those people with dementia to live. 

It will be argued that killing people with dementia is compassionate, not because they would have wanted to die, but because society has determined that there life is not worth living.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.