June 26, 2009
Student Questions on Euthanasia
Question 1: Do you see euthanasia being legalized any time soon in Canada?
It is our hope that with education campaigns Canadians will reject euthanasia. There is a threat on the horizon with Bloc Québecois member of Parliament Francine Lalonde having introduced a bill to legalize assisted suicide for the third time. The two previous attempts failed when the bills died on the order table because elections were called. Canadians need to be informed about the dangers of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Ms. Lalonde presented her bill yesterday. We are concerned about the possibility of this becoming law.
Question 2: Would you say euthanasia is morally wrong? Why or why not?
Yes, euthanasia is morally wrong. Why? Because euthanasia is killing. It is intentionally causing the death of another human being. Euthanasia is the abandonment of the vulnerable. As for the law, it makes a moral statement. It says that we will not accept certain acts and it exists to protect the vulnerable. The prohibition against euthanasia in the Criminal Code is there because it considers euthanasia an act of homicide.
Question 3: Does a person have the right to take his or her own life? Why or why not?
Suicide is a cry for help. It is an expression of depression, of despair. We do not prosecute individuals who attempt suicide because society has recognized that suicide is a cry for help. Instead we offer assistance to enable the person to overcome his or her problems.
Now as concerns assisted suicide and euthanasia: In any other circumstance if a person said, he or she wanted to end his or her life, would you help the person to kill herself/himself or would you help the person to live? The caring response would be to help the person to live, to tell her that he/she matters to you, that his or her life has meaning. Assisted suicide is a criminal offence in Canada. It entails someone providing the means for a person to kill themselves. It can be a physician providing a prescription for lethal drugs (physician assisted suicide) or another individual counseling or providing the means for someone to kill himself/herself. Again, the law against assisted suicide is there to protect the vulnerable. Euthanasia also involves a second party. It involves a physician administering a lethal injection or withholding or withdrawing of treatment with the intention to cause death. It involves the physician in an act of killing. Euthanasia alters the role of the physician from one of healing to one of killing. The legalization of euthanasia would adversely affect the patient / doctor relationship. This would undermine the trust which patients put in their physicians. In 2000, the British medical Association said in a statement concerning the doctor patient relationship that if euthanasia were legalized patients will have to wonder whether…”the physician coming into my hospital room is wearing the white coat of the healer or the black hood of the executioner.”
There really is no such thing as the right to take your own life or the right to die.
Question 4: What treatment should Canadian health care develop as opposed to euthanasia?
The emphasis should be placed on providing excellent end of life care. Palliative care and hospice care should be available to all Canadians who need it. The late Dame Cecily Saunders of the United Kingdom founded hospice/palliative care in the late 1960’s. She came up with the concept of total care. ELC she called it. It stands for Efficient Loving Care. This method of cares involves looking after the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of a patient. Saunders said in an interview: “I realized that we needed not only better pain control but better overall care. I coined the term ‘total pain’ from my understanding that dying people have physical, spiritual, psychological and social pain that must be treated.” Her philosophy and methods of care have spread all around the world.
More funds should be directed towards palliative care in Canada to increase access to these services.
Question 5: Does Action Life lobby the government to improve palliative care?
Since Action Life is not a political organization, it does not lobby governments. We do not engage in political work. We have however presented or sent briefs to government committees on issues that are of concern to us as an educational pro-life group. We can educate and inform through a brief or letter about palliative care, the experience of euthanasia in the Netherlands or send research materials about life issues.
Question 6: Is euthanasia a cop-out to avoid paying high medical fees for palliative care? If so why do you think it is becoming more prevalent in our culture?
One of the dangers of legalizing euthanasia is that it can be used to ration health care. It is much cheaper to kill a patient than to provide care. Dr. Colleen Clements, assistant professor of psychiatry, University of Rochester, N. Y. State wrote in the Medical Post – June 20, 1989: “It would be foolish to think that assisted suicide or direct killing of patients would not be abused for a cost containment agenda. Even withholding or withdrawing of treatment is subject to abuse, and there is clinical evidence to point out to current routine abuse…No, the medical profession should not promote as routine or as policy or as medical ethics, the passive or active killing of a patient. The risk to the chronically sick or terminally ill is just too great. It is a realistic risk not a slippery slope fallacy. We can actually demonstrate the probabilities and the actuality of its happening.”
It is more prevalent in our culture because of our diminished respect for human life. If a society accepts killing before birth by abortion, it will accept killing after birth by assisted suicide and euthanasia. The acceptance of abortion has devalued our very humanity. Some lives are viewed as disposable. Dr. Karel Gunning, a Dutch physician says: “Once you accept killing as a solution for a single problem, you will find tomorrow hundreds of problems for which killing can be seen as a solution.”
In our western world, life is no longer regarded as sacred. The legalization of euthanasia is a threat to the lives of the disabled, the chronically ill and the terminally ill. When euthanasia is suggested to a patient by a physician or family member, the patient may well take this suggestion to heart. He may receive the message from the physician or family member that they think he would be better off dead.
Question 7: How long has euthanasia been one of the issues that Action Life deals with? How old is Action Life?
Action has been educating on the issue of euthanasia for many years. Pro-life people warned that if we allowed abortion, in time calls to legalize euthanasia would follow.
Action Life was founded in 1971 and incorporated in 1976.
Question 8: Should euthanasia be considered as a medical treatment?
No because killing should never be considered medical treatment. The prohibition against euthanasia exists in law because it is regarded as homicide. Euthanasia is about allowing physicians to kill their patients. Euthanasia once legalized can never be effectively controlled. Voluntary euthanasia always leads to non-voluntary euthanasia, where the physician kills the patient without the patient’s consent.
The experience in the Netherland reveals that euthanasia cannot be controlled. In fact, thousands of patients over the years have been killed without their consent. Further the practice of euthanasia in the Netherlands has expanded from euthanasia of the terminally ill to the chronically ill, to the depressed to handicapped children. Adolescents may also access assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Question 9: Why do you think the Netherlands legalized euthanasia before anyone else?
Professor Ian Dowbiggin, chair of the History Department at the University of Prince Edward Island in his book A concise history of Life, Death, God and Medicine offers this explanation:”The Netherlands, like other countries was hard hit by the cultural revolution of the 1960s. But no western nation embraced the counterculture attack on long standing norms more than the Dutch. Even the medical profession was swept along by this current. In the words of one Dutch physician, traditional ethics collapsed in almost every area including the medical community. Almost overnight the Dutch adopted the idea that as long as people are going to use drugs, visit bordellos, and conceive babies out of wedlock, the government should regulate these behaviours rather than condemn them. The same thinking applied to euthanasia.”
Physicians were breaking the law against euthanasia.
It has also been observed that Holland has lost its faith, that most of its churches now stand empty.
Question 10: What do you think is a major reason that people consider euthanasia a possibility?
I think fear of pain and the fear of being a burden. Some may have seen loved ones suffer due to poor pain management and fear a similar situation. Others cite the loss of enjoyment of life as a result of illness. For euthanasia advocates, it is about autonomy. In fact euthanasia is not about autonomy. It is a mere illusion since guidelines are broken and patients are killed without their consent.
Question 11: Are there any curent legal proceedings that Action Life is aware of in Canada regarding euthanasia?
There are at present no cases before the courts regarding euthanasia. As mentioned earlier, Bloc Québecois member Francine Lalonde introduced her bill in the House of Commons yesterday.
Editor’s note: (Ms. Lalonde’s Bill C-384 was introduced in May 2009 and defeated in Parliament by a margin of 228 to 59 in April 2010.
Question 12: What is the first thing or event you think when you hear euthanasia in the context of Canada? (events, model cases,etc.)
When I hear the word euthanasia, my thoughts turn to the dangers of legalizing the practice of euthanasia. It is a very real threat to vulnerable individuals: the disabled, the chronically ill, the terminally ill, the depressed. It is about abandonning individuals when they most require our love and our help. Better access to good medical care is what is needed not killing.
We can do better than offer killing under the guise of compassion and medical treatment. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are false compassion.
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