The citizen network Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia have examined the report of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Aid in Dying, which recommends, among other things, that by 2019, health professionals relieve the suffering of children by helping them commit suicide. Excluded from the hearings, as were several other organizations concerned with the defense of vulnerable Canadians, LWD and the Alliance share the apprehensions of the authors of the dissenting report, who express their concern that "more safeguards are needed for the vulnerable" (p. 51).
Indeed, through its "patient-centered approach", the main report of the Committee seeks to facilitate access to suicide to large numbers of people, to the point of recommending that the federal government "ensure that the process to regulate medical assistance in dying does not include a prior review and approval process"(p. 30).
In this regard, the main report suggests that adherence to the eligibility criteria be checked once the person is dead, without proposing any obligation for the doctor to obtain written consent from the patient – only "where possible "(p. 25). In contrast, in its Ancillary Considerations, " the Committee wishes to highlight the need to ensure that health care professionals who are acting in good faith are protected from civil liability " (p. 30).
In addition, the main report recommends measures that would have the effect of denying health professionals’ Charter right to freedom of conscience. It proposes, for example, to force doctors and nurses to be complicit in killings that they do not endorse, recommending that "at a minimum, the objecting practitioner must provide an effective referral for the patient "(p. 26).
Moreover, the main report suggests a range of "eligible" reasons that put vulnerable people at high risk of death. Thus, those who suffer psychologically (depression), who are suicidal, who suffer from psychiatric disease, or who are afraid of the future will be accompanied in their suicide. The report acknowledges that "there will be unique challenges in applying the eligibility criteria for MAID where the patient has a mental illness", but adds that "the Committee does not see how that individual could be denied [an access to MAID]” (p. 15-16).
The main report wraps up with nothing but wishful thinking on the real issues: the urgent need to improve access to high quality palliative care and mental health care.
We have barely finished Suicide Prevention Week, and lo and behold, our political leaders are promoting a right to assistance in committing suicide. This glaring inconsistency highlights the Committee’s eagerness to maintain the confusion that led to the adoption of the Quebec Law. Indeed, the main report proclaims outright the victory of the euphemism "medical aid in dying" by recommending that it "be used in any future legislation on this topic" (p. 10) and that the terms assisted suicide and euthanasia, considered "loaded" (p. 11), be officially banned from the public vocabulary.
Living with Dignity and Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia urge more than ever all citizens who are aware of the societal drama that is drawing to a close in Canada to challenge their Members of Parliament to create a law respectful of the right to life and the right to a free conscience.