Good facts are absolutely essential for good ethics.
by Margaret Somerville. April 29 2014.
Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson recently wrote a pro-euthanasia column entitled “Assisted suicide – the issue we can’t ignore”. If he’s correct, it’s also the issue where we can’t afford to get our facts wrong. So, looking at his column, where might some people be doing so? Responding to that question can provide important insights in relation to euthanasia, in particular how pro-euthanasia advocates present “facts” to support their case.
Mr Simpson writes: “Canada has been around the issue of physician-assisted suicide many times in the past two decades … but we have never arrived at a consensus to allow the practice, as some European countries have done.”
But no country has a real consensus either for or against euthanasia and in Canada our “consensus”, in this sense, as manifested by the Canadian Parliament, which voted down legalizing euthanasia in April 2010 by a vote of 228 to 59, has been to reject euthanasia as incompatible with foundational Canadian values; not ethically acceptable; seriously harmful to the institution of medicine; and too dangerous in terms of abuse, especially of vulnerable people.
There are several problems with Mr. Simpson’s statement that “A bill introduced by the Parti Québécois government would have allowed physician-assisted suicide with a range of appropriate safeguards and checks involving patients, physicians and families.”
Bill 52 would have allowed euthanasia, but it’s quite unclear whether it would have allowed physician-assisted suicide. The reports that informed the bill had rejected the latter, for reasons that we can only speculate about.
Clarifying what the bill was allowing is the first safeguard needed. The term “medically assisted death” was used as a euphemism for euthanasia. In an Ipsos Marketing poll carried out September 2013, which covered 2,078 Canadian respondents, 1,010 of them from Quebec, two thirds of Quebecers didn’t understand this meant a physician could give a lethal injection to a patient, and 40 percent didn’t understand that was what euthanasia meant.
And the safeguards were based on the Belgian law allowing euthanasia which have been spectacularly ineffective in containing its expanded use or preventing its abusive use.
Mr. Simpson writes “that the new