Pro-euthanasia attack from all fronts

The pro-euthanasia activists pulled out all the stops today in an undisguised bid to influence the Supreme Court judges as they prepare to hear the Carter case next week.

First of all they present another survey, said to have found that a majority of Canadians wants doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. It’s not the first time this claim has been made. Without going into the questionable technique of using a members-only survey site that gives rewards for answering their surveys, the questions are slanted toward pro-euthanasia answers and are based on the unproven assumption that safeguards to prevent abuse exist. On the contrary, the evidence that safeguards do not protect vulnerable persons from abuse, in countries where euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal, is constantly growing.

The longer legislation is in place, the more abuse of the law happens. We prepared an infographic that shows some of the known cases of abuse as of December 2013. Since that time, Belgium agreed to grant euthanasia to a prisoner who preferred to die than to serve his life sentence, the Netherlands released a report stating that 42 people who had mental illnesses and were non-terminally ill were euthanized, and an elderly couple announced they were going to use assisted suicide to die together because they feared loneliness if the other one died first.

We then hear that the Quebec MNA Véronique Hivon, the “mother of the ‘dying with dignity’ law”, wants to expand the debate beyond what the new law allows, to seek physician-inflicted death for people suffering from disabilities who are not imminently dying. This clearly shows that for her, the new law on end-of-life care is only the first step in a process that aims to widely extend a “right” to access medical death. It confirms what she said last year on a national radio show and proves that we were right when we invoked this risk of incremental extension of the law.

Finally, we are told of the suicide by starvation of a quadriplegic man. We are saddened by his death. According to the article in La Presse he was able to run his business after the accident that left him paralyzed, until he was immobilized by pressure sores. One can’t help wondering about what could have been done to prevent or treat the sores – but in any case his right to refuse nutrition and hydration has been recognized by law for many years. This has nothing to do with the current debate. Why was it published today, over three weeks after he died? For media effect, a week before Carter?

Journalism is not ethically neutral. People's attitudes are formed by social dialogue and media coverage. The media has been overwhelmingly one-sided in its support of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. Just consider the CBC series "Last Rights" last year that gave less than 6 minutes of airtime to opponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia, while giving 121 minutes to pro-euthanasia advocates.

Opinion polls are a dime a dozen. 63% of Canadians support the death penalty, but we do not reintroduce it because there is too great a risk of killing an innocent person by mistake. It's the same with euthanasia. The state has a duty to protect all citizens. Health professionals have a duty to care for all. The media has a duty of caution, to not put people’s lives in danger for the sake of a good story.