NRL News

Barbara Kay: Canada, euthanasia and the slippery slope.

by | Feb 20, 2019

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Barbara Kay

The National Post recently published an excellent article by columnist Barbara Kay concerning the incremental extensions to euthanasia that are occurring in Canada.

Kay refers to the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada’s euthanasia decision was promulgated four years ago with the prediction that there would be no “slippery slope” toward abuses of the future law. She quotes Andrew Coyne, the former editor of the National Post who then stated:

“When the subject is as priceless as a human life, it is not enough that consent usually be obtained. It must be in every case. It will not suffice if the safeguards are adequate. They must be perfect.”

Kay continues:

But since the right to be killed by medical practitioners paid by the state has now been normalized, individuals are stepping forward, as any student of human nature (and observer of the euthanasia histories of Belgium and the Netherlands) might have predicted, to demand custom-tailoring of that right.

Case in point, Kay writes about the Audrey Parker campaign to extend euthanasia to incompetent people who made a previous request:

Audrey Parker, a Halifax woman with terminal cancer who was assisted to death on Nov. 1, weeks earlier than she wished, left a video, released last week by Dying with Dignity Canada. In it, she said she would have preferred to stay alive until Christmas, but worried that her cancer, creeping to the lining of her brain, would render her unfit by then to invoke MAID [Medical Aid In Dying]. She asked for a “Parker’s amendment” to the law, allowing for a proxy to facilitate a previously sworn request in such circumstances.

It sounds reasonable. All safeguard abrogations do when they are attached to sympathetic protagonists with a black-and-white narrative. They are less palatable, though, when attached to muddier stories, like the case of a Dutch woman with dementia who’d signed a living will endorsing euthanasia when of sound mind, but then, when the time came, struggling against the needle, had to be held down by relatives as the doctor killed her.

In fact, the Canadian government already asked the Council of Canadian Academics to study advance consent, as well as euthanasia in cases of mature minors and advanced dementia. On Dec. 13 the council submitted a report including what it saw as the pros and cons of each proposal, but without recommendations.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti has said the government will continue to review the practice of MAID. He looks forward to “speaking with Canadians about how the (MAID) regime is working for them.”

Kay then examines the issue of conscience rights in Ontario.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), considered by many stakeholders to be the most aggressive association of its kind in the country on this file, took a conscience-hostile stance on physicians who refuse to perform or refer for euthanasia (or abortion) a decade ago, and hasn’t softened up since.

According to Dr. Ryan Wilson, president of Canadian Physicians for Life (CPL), “Ontario is the only (physicians’ association) that says you have to either participate in or refer to someone who will participate.”

CPL and other advocacy groups had hoped that Premier Doug Ford’s new administration would end the political shunning they were accustomed to under the Liberals, especially since in November, the province of Ontario dropped its intervention on CPSO’s behalf in a court case brought against the association by five doctors of conscience. But at the Nov. 16-18 Ontario PC party Toronto convention, Ford’s promise to legislate conscience rights did not make it through the policy committee.

The five physicians’ case was heard at the Court of Appeal on Jan. 21-22, with judgment pending. If they lose, as is likely, they are determined to take it to the Supreme Court.

Kay brings up several significant concerns with the application of Canada’s euthanasia law. But there are more.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Euthanasia