REALity Volume XXXV Issue No. 6 June 2016
Supreme Court of Canada, with its antenna always attuned to the latest progressive trends, dumped assisted suicide on Canadians in February, 2015 in Carter vs. Canada. To do this, the court ignored its own previous decision on the issue, and that six different Parliaments had previously rejected the notion of assisted suicide.
In drafting the troubling Bill C-14, the Liberal government, at least, had the sense to ignore the wild-eyed recommendations put forward by the Liberal dominated Parliamentary Committee, which had reviewed the issue. That Committee left no stone unturned to ensure that everyone including the mentally ill, minors, and those with dementia, even though not terminally ill, had an opportunity to consent to have themselves killed. These recommendations were ignored in the legislation, fortunately for these vulnerable individuals.
Members of this Committee, especially its Co-Chairman, MP Rob Oliphant, (Don Valley West), a former United Church Minister and a homosexual activist, were incensed that the Committee’s recommendations were not accepted. He demanded that the government make a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada immediately after the legislation is passed to determine whether it is constitutional. This, of course, would have the advantage of the government covering the cost of the litigation on the legislation, and this would be faster than individuals or groups seeking amendments to undertake the long process of bringing a legal challenge through the courts. The government, however, has indicated that it does not think it necessary to seek a reference, stating that such a process is premature.
The pro-euthanasia organization “Death with Dignity” was also unhappy with the government ignoring the Committee’s recommendations. At a press conference, the organization described Bill C-14 as “harsh and discriminatory” because the mentally ill, minors and those with dementia won’t have access to having themselves killed.
1. Protection of Conscience Rights
Bill C-14 did not tackle the crucial issue of conscience rights of physicians and religious institutions which object to assisted suicide. The Liberals conveniently left this sticky issue to the provinces to deal with, despite the fact the Supreme Court stated definitively, in the Carter case, that “Nothing in this declaration would compel physicians to provide assistance in dying.” No mention is made in Bill C-14 of the conscience rights of nurses and pharmacists, who are exempted as well under this legislation from criminal prosecution for prescribing or administering a lethal dose to a patient.
The Charter of Rights provides in s.2 and s.15 that religious and conscience rights are protected in Canada. Already the medical associations in Ontario and Saskatchewan have regulations which provide that physicians with conscientious objections must “refer” patients. This makes the physician complicit in the act. The government has ignored this basic right of freedom of religion in Bill C-14.
It is noteworthy that the Canadian public is fully in support of providing conscience protection for religious institutions and individuals. Angus Reid conducted an online survey in March, 2016 on whether Catholic institutions should be required to provide assisted suicide. According to this Poll 69% agree (three in five Canadians) that institutions with moral objections to assisted suicide should be able to refuse to do so.
The pro-assisted suicide/euthanasia supporters, however, insist that faith based institutions and individuals should be required to comply with requests for assisted suicide, as this would indicate that society has given its full approval to killing patients merely as a routine medical procedure removed from moral concerns. In short, it would affirm the correctness of the pro-death crowd’s views on the issue.
The legislation also lacks oversight in that there is no advance overview by an independent third party before the patient is put to death. The bill permits the doctor or nurse who approved the act to also report the act to the authorities. We know, from experience in the European jurisdictions that have assisted suicide, that this reporting system is a completely unreliable source of information and provides an excellent opportunity for cover-up.
Bill C-14 limits assisted suicide to those eligible under Canadian Health Services. This at least prevents a suicide invasion coming to Canada from the U.S. and abroad, and eliminates the problems of who pays the bill for the death service. It’s the Canadian taxpayer who foots the bill, just as though killing patients is normal health care, instead of being contrary to the standard of medical care determined over the centuries to “do no harm”.
It is alarming that Bill C-14 provides that a “third party” aiding a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to provide medical assistance for suicide is exempt from liability. Does this mean that anyone, regardless of who they are, can actually perform the lethal act? There is no supervision of the poison prescription taken home. There is no way to determine whether there was proper consent before the poison is administered.
It is noteworthy that, although Bill C-14 applies to those with an incurable illness whose death is “reasonably foreseeable”, whether physical or psychological, the illness must be intolerable and cannot be relieved under conditions that the patient considers acceptable. Palliative care relieves pain, loneliness and fear in nearly all cases. Without knowing the benefits of palliative care, how can the patient determine that the condition of the illness is intolerable? Bill C-14 should be amended so that palliative care is required to be administered during the fifteen days delay, according to the legislation, after the request for death has been made. This will enable the patient, whose life is of inestimable value, to give an informed consent on whether the health conditions are indeed not acceptable.
2. A Lawyer’s Paradise
The vague wording used in Bill C-14 makes it a lawyer’s paradise. It creates no end of possibilities for litigation. The lawyers will prosper under this legislation, but no one else.
3. New Concept of Medicine
Medical care has always been based on the concept of “do not harm”. Patients’ lives heretofore have always been protected by the medical profession who work to make them better. Palliative care is a viable alternative to instant assisted death. Assisted suicide profoundly changes and detrimentally affects the practice of medicine in Canada.
The golden thread throughout our legal system is that each individual life is valuable no matter who they may be. They must be protected. If we lose this concept, then everyone’s life is endangered – the homeless, the alcoholic, the drug addict, the prostitute. No longer will they be helped by the state. Instead, their lives will be regarded as useless, not being worth-while, and purposeless and, therefore, can be readily eliminated.
It’s not just the lives of the ill and terminally ill that are at stake with Bill C-14 – it’s all of us who are now drawn into this catastrophe.