The Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying has recommended death be granted even if your illness is not terminal.

Ottawa March 1, 2016

One wonders why the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying ever bothered meeting. It could have just declared assisted suicide was open to everyone, anywhere, with no holds barred.   The committee cast its net as wide as possible to ensure that no one would be denied the opportunity to have his/her life terminated on request.  The Committee recommends there be no waiting period, prior review, or approval process.

The Supreme Court of Canada in Carter vs Canada (February 2015) had stated that “a permissive regime

[for assisted suicide] with properly designed and administered safeguards was capable of protecting vulnerable people from abuse and error”.  Clearly the court underestimated the enthusiasm of this Liberal dominated committee for assisted suicide.  Further, the court insisted that Parliament “must weigh and balance the perspective of those who might be at risk in a permissive regime against that of those who seek assistance in dying”.  The committee failed to provide a scrap of “balance”.  Instead, the committee focused almost entirely on facilitating the patients’ “personal autonomy”, by merely having to ask for assisted suicide.  The mentally ill and depressed, even though these illnesses are treatable, as well as “mature” children under 18 years of age (after a 3 year delay in implementing this provision), are all eligible for ready death.  The court, however, explicitly stated that assisted suicide be made available for “competent adult persons”. The committee, on the other hand, stated that it would be “discriminatory” to refuse all vulnerable individuals the opportunity to have themselves killed.  

As noted, assisted suicide, according to this committee, may be granted even if the illness is not terminal. For example, they ignore that the turbulence of adolescence in an individual who has not even experienced life, would not place him in a good position to decide on the termination of his life. The difficulties weighing on vulnerable people in their consent to assisted suicide was airily dismissed by the committee on the grounds it “had faith in the expertise of Canadian health care professionals to develop and apply appropriate guidelines for such cases”.  Yet they were made aware of the physicians in the Netherlands and Belgium who, without valid consent, carry out the termination of lives there.

The committee also recommends that physicians who have a conscientious or religious objection to assisted suicide be obliged to refer the patient for this procedure. This requires the physician to be complicit in the very act to which he objects.  All publicly funded institutions including hospitals, hospices, long-term care facilities etc. regardless of religious beliefs, are obliged to provide this service.  Freedom of religion and conscience, provided under the Charter of Rights, seem to have been relegated to the back of the bus in this report. Perhaps, more accurately, they have been denied a seat on the bus entirely.

The committee also recommends that not just physicians, but also registered nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and “other health care practitioners who provide services relating to assisted suicide” be permitted to do so. Would this definition be extended to include individuals who serve meals to patients to sustain them in public institutions while they seek assisted suicide, or personal support workers, who provide “services” to a patient while preparing for assisted suicide? Would this empower them to assist with the termination?

The “safeguards” provided by the committee are ludicrous. Two independent physicians are required to decide whether the patient meets the criteria.  This shouldn’t be too difficult to obtain.  Also, two individuals (without any conflict of interest) are to witness the signing of the consent forms “where possible”.  There is no requirement or mechanism to determine if consent was freely given or obtained under duress.  No matter.  Consent is consent, so just get on with it.

If the recommendations are accepted by the Liberal government, Canada will then have the most extreme liberal assisted suicide legislation in the world. Perhaps this is what the Liberal government believes is “leadership”.   Alternatively, perhaps it indicates an immature, thoughtless government, careless of its responsibilities towards the weak, the aged and the sick.

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Brief as submitted to the Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying February 12 2016 Download here