Canada ignored warnings that its euthanasia law immediately went too far. 

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Tristan Hopper wrote an excellent article that was published in the National Post on August 19, 2022 about the many stories that have been published in the past few months concerning the many unexpected victims of Canada’s euthanasia law. Hopper examines the law based on how the law went too far from its inception.

Hopper writes:

Barely a week now goes by without some new case emerging of a sick Canadian being offered assisted death in lieu of treatment. Most recently, it was a Canadian combat veteran who was casually offered the option of dying after he approached Veteran Affairs Canada for help with his PTSD.

It’s a nightmare scenario that was envisioned by no shortage of ethicists and health figures when assisted death was first written into Canadian law. But with few exceptions, these warnings were ignored by the various court rulings that ultimately forced Canada into adopting the world’s most permissive regime of legal euthanasia.

Hopper points out that 

Notably, Carter v. Canada directly contradicted another Supreme Court decision from just 22 years before that was even written by some of the same justices. In 1993’s Rodriguez v. British Columbia, the Supreme Court had dismissed a Charter appeal against the assisted suicide ban, arguing that such a measure would violate the Charter’s “underlying hypothesis” of the sanctity of human life. “Given the concerns about abuse and the great difficulty in creating appropriate safeguards, the blanket prohibition on assisted suicide is not arbitrary or unfair,” read the 1993 ruling.

The 2015 Carter decision legalized euthanasia, ignoring the concerns about abuse even though experts’ witnesses explained how the safeguards in Belgium and the Netherlands had become an illusion. The Supreme Court responded by stating that the Belgium experience was

“the product of a very different medico-legal culture” and said it offered no lessons for Canada.

Hopper quotes from NDP MP Joe Comartin, who during the parliamentary debate warned of “‘mercy killings’ becoming a regular component of an underfunded Canadian health-care system.” Comartin added, “The risk we have is sending a message to the country that life is expendable, that we are prepared to say that we do not care enough for people to take care of them”

Conservative MP Joy Smith quoted from Theo Boer, a Dutch bioethicist and former member of the euthanasia commission who had supported euthanasia and then changed his mind:

“Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely to ever go back in again”

Hopper then quotes from John C. Wootten, writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal:

MAID’s [euthanasia’s] core issue was that it was a 100 per cent successful procedure, with no way of telling whether it was a mistake. “Because few other medical acts can be accomplished with such impunity, we are likely to become more and more comfortable with it, and more and more permissive as times goes by,” he wrote.

Hopper then points out that the 2019 Truchon and Gladu Quebec court decision continued the delusion that there are no fears of abuse. 

In the 2019 decision Truchon and Gladu v. Canada, the Quebec Superior Court ruled that extending assisted suicide only to Canadians with terminal illnesses was similarly a violation of the “security of the person.”

“The fact that doubts have been raised is one thing, but any possible ‘slippery slope’ remains theoretical,” it read.

Hopper explains that the Truchon decision led to the passing of Bill C-7 in March 202. The bill allowed euthanasia for people with chronic but not terminal conditions; it eliminated the 10-day waiting period for people who are dying; and it extended euthanasia to people with mental illness alone to be instituted in March 2023.

He concludes his article with one of the most egregious stories of euthanasia abuse in Canada–the euthanasia death of Alan Nichols. Hopper writes:

Last June, the Medical Assistance in Dying Committee heard from Trish Nichols, whose suicidal and severely mentally ill brother Alan was given assisted death at a Chilliwack, B.C., hospital in 2019, at a time when MAID was still limited only to Canadians with a terminal illness.

Alan had been taken by his family to the hospital only days before to recover from a psychiatric episode, and in the minutes before he received a lethal injection, Trish described Alan screaming uncontrollably, despite the hospital’s assurances that he had opted for a medically assisted death while “of sound mind.”

“Would you feel safe now, bringing your suicidal loved one to seek medical care for recovery when there are no oversight or stringent safeguards surrounding a procedure that kills people?” Nichols told the committee.

Hopper only misses one point. The committee that Trish Nichols was speaking to is debating the expansion of Canada’s euthanasia law to children -“mature minors” –to requests by advanced directive, and to determine the rules for killing people for mental illness alone.

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