REALity Volume XXXVI Issue No. 11 November 2017
It wasn’t long ago that society regarded suicide as a tragedy. Suicide Prevention Societies did all they could to prevent such deaths and to provide practical, positive options to discourage self-inflicted death.
However, in February, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada decided that suicide wasn’t all that tragic after all. It overturned the Criminal Code provision prohibiting physician assisted suicide for competent adults whose condition was “grievous and irremediable” and “intolerable” to that individual. In doing so, the court waived any of the problems that inevitably arise with this change in the law, stating only that Parliament could put in place limitations and controls to prevent any abuse.
Unfortunately, the law subsequently passed by the Liberal majority government on physician-assisted suicide, in June, 2016, did not include meaningful controls. Further, the law has had the effect of normalizing suicide as an acceptable answer to suffering or to any of life’s difficult problems.
Increased Suicide Rate Among Adolescents
Health experts have long been concerned about the prevalence of suicide among young men. It has been called “a silent epidemic”. In 2013, young men were three times as likely to kill themselves as compared to young women. However, in March, 2017 Statistics Canada released data indicating that adolescent girls are catching up to males and now account for 42% of all suicide deaths for those under 20. In 2003, they accounted for just over 25% of suicide deaths.
One of the factors for suicide among adolescents is what is called “toxic socialization”. This refers to a process of physical or emotional childhood and adolescent abuse. Those who grow up in toxic environments are up to twelve times more likely to experience addiction, depression or to try to commit suicide.
When these tragic circumstances occur in the life of an adolescent, the assisted suicide legislation sends an unmistakable message that some lives are not worth living, and that suicide may well be a reasonable alternative to end suffering. The message is, when life becomes too difficult, it’s okay to kill yourself. The terrible damage that this notion is causing is that suicide has now become a leading cause of death.
In June, 2017, Halifax Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais reported that his officers are seeing a disturbing rise in suicide calls and suggested that the city’s suicide rate be released to help start the conversation around the issue. The most recent suicide figures in Canada, released by Statistics Canada, refer to 2013 (before the 2016 assisted suicide law). In 2013, there were 4,054 suicides reported. But we know from police reports in other areas that the number of suicides has greatly increased since then.
We have also seen this same pattern in the US states of Oregon and Washington and in the Netherlands where there is legalized, assisted suicide.
Practical experience is telling us that we have a problem on our hands especially with our youth experiencing mental illness or depression.
The utilitarian view of life promoted by assisted suicide legislation saps an individual’s soul, just at a time when he/she especially needs assistance.
Because we have now established a pro-suicide culture, thanks to the Supreme Court of Canada, we are losing the lives of many, especially young people. What a loss!