The recent unanimous Supreme Court decision to allow doctor-assisted suicides is one of the most regrettable ones I have witnessed in my lifetime. Nine unelected officials have opened the door to the proverbial slippery slope of interpretation of this law, made not by our 308 elected MPs or even by doctors. “Mentally competent adults with grievous and irremediable medical conditions” will have the right to have a doctor kill them. The ‘do no harm’ Hippocratic Oath that has served mankind for 2,500 years is apparently outdated.
But who will interpret such subjective terms as grievous and irremediable? Where are there any guidelines as to what defines intolerable psychological pain, since physical suffering alone is not the issue? What tests will determine unquestionable mental competence? These are huge considerations that need to have parameters defined by legislation and regulations, before the law’s implementation.
Belgium and the Netherlands have demonstrated that such a law will be interpreted in ever-widening circles until it is acceptable to end the life of depressed people, deaf people and handicapped newborns.
In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, patients seeking medical treatment have been offered assisted suicide instead.
Section 241 of the Canadian Criminal Code used to say that it was an indictable offense with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison to counsel, aid or abet someone in the act of suicide. It is not difficult to imagine opportunistic families pouring guilt on wealthy elderly parents until they consent to die. We currently have cases in B.C. where families are trying to have courts rule that caregivers should starve or dehydrate elderly patients to death. An injection would seem so much more ‘humane.’
Nowhere is there a restriction to cases of terminal illness in this law. The logic currently being used is setting a precedent that will have to be upheld and followed until it leads us from suicide as a tragedy to the acceptance of public service killings of those someone else judges unworthy of life. It’s called eugenics. Who decides what sort of people should live? That nine individuals who I cannot even name have the power to change the safety of my nation for vulnerable Canadians is appalling to me. It’s time to stand for those who can’t stand for themselves. Parliament can still do something if we speak up.