Suicide prevention or aid to suicide?

NOTE: The original article was published in French in the Huffintgon Post on February 8, 2017 (read original article here >>).

A 41-year-old man, father to two children, decided to put an end to his days because he suffered from a dependence on alcohol. A young girl ended her life because she suffered from being sexually abused as a child. Others have put an end to their lives because they were depressed, tired of living, or because of a heartbreaking breakup.

All of these painful cases of suicide – and many others – have an extremely troubling point in common: they were committed with the help of a physician, via euthanasia or assisted suicide, according to the criteria of laws supported by their respective governments.

However, these cases occurred in European countries (>>, >>, >>) who have, like Canada, permitted euthanasia or assisted suicide with “stringent” criteria: end of life, incurable disease, etc. Yet the logic of “a right to die” inevitably leads to an expansion of these criteria, rapidly perceived as being discriminatory, cruel, and unjust. The choice of death being presented as a solution to suffering (and even as “health care”), the natural evolution of this principle will inexorably bring a multitude of people to feel “excluded” from this possibility disguised as compassion.

Thus, still according to the logic of euthanasia, the real question is not to determine why a physician would refuse to kill their patient, but rather to know why to grant death to one person and refuse it to another… And the response cannot but lead to the same cases which we observe in Europe. Consequentially, euthanasia simply provides a technical means to people who want to commit suicide, and this, for ever more numerous reasons. In the long run, it will make us accept tomorrow the reasons that we rejected yesterday. What nonsense as we are just out of the suicide prevention week…

Indeed, in legalising “medical aid in dying”, the Government of Canada has modified the Criminal Code to create exemptions to health professionals from “the offences of culpable homicide, of aiding suicide and of administering a [poison].” Thus, “medical aid in dying” only provides a cover and decorum for permitting what is nothing more than approval and participation in a suicidal act, as long as the reasons are socially acceptable. And the experience of European countries shows us that the level of social acceptance increases over time.

The Suicide Prevention Week that just closed reminds us of the importance of supporting those who suffer by responding to their cry of the heart with solidarity and mutual help.

The real tragedy behind euthanasia and assisted suicide comes precisely from the fact that we lock up the person in their problem. Worse still, we endorse the despair that leads them to want to die by providing them with the means to do so, instead of providing them with the care and comfort they need to prevent them from feeling “like a burden.”

Soon, the public discussions on extending euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada will begin, as promised and legislated by the recent Canadian law. Our society will then wonder whether it is socially acceptable to include children or those suffering from mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, etc.), or to predetermine via advance directives the “relief” of those who are no longer able to consent.

Faced with this reality, a question arises: in the long term, will aid in suicide replace suicide prevention?