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April 21, 2016
Sheldon Neil

As parliament debates over assisted death legislation, many have voiced their concerns over gateway possibilities, like access for minors. We talked to Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director and International Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition to learn more. 


Sheldon@CONTEXT: What is your response to the long-awaited Liberal Government’s Doctor Assisted Dying Bill?

Alex Schadenberg: We are very disappointed with the Liberal Government's bill based on the fact that the language of the bill undermines the safeguards that it claims to provide. For instance, it states that it limits euthanasia to terminal conditions, but in fact the bill defines terminal as: "their natural death has become reasonably foreseeable, taking into account all of their medical circumstances, without a prognosis necessarily having been made as to the specific length of time that they have remaining."

What does it mean that natural death has become reasonably foreseeable? How will that be determined if a prognosis is not necessary? This section of the bill provides an illusion of compromise and lacks any meaning.

The “safeguards” are an illusion.

The bill requires a medical or nurse practitioner to: "be of the opinion that the person meets all of the criteria." To “be of the opinion” is a very low standard. You will never be able to challenge a medical or nurse practitioner on a decision as long as they are "of the opinion" that the person meets all of the criteria.

The bill requires a medical or nurse practitioner to: "be satisfied that the request was signed and dated by the personor by another person under subsection (4)." To “be satisfied” is a very low standard. Further to that, section 4 enables another person to sign the request. It states anyone can sign the request so long as they are: "at least 18 years of age and who understands the nature of the request." These concerns only represent a few of the illusions in the bill. 

Sheldon@CONTEXT: Bill C-14 prohibits medically assisted death for minors. Should Assisted-Dying legislation be extended to "mature minors" (children under 18). Why or Why not?

Alex Schadenberg: The Supreme Court decision did not require that euthanasia or assisted suicide be extended to "mature minors." The Supreme Court Carter decision stated that the law must allow assisted death for: 

“a competent adult person who 

(1) clearly consents to the termination of life and 

(2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes

enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”

Sheldon@CONTEXT: What implications need to be considered when thinking of extending Assisted-Dying Legislation to minors?

Alex Schadenberg: First of all, acts of euthanasia and assisted suicide are irrevocable decisions. Children are more likely to be influenced by their parents or care-givers than competent adult persons. For the same reason, elder abuse creates a great concern for elders who are dependent on other family members for their basic care. The problem is that the euthanasia lobby wants the world to think that "assisted death" meaning euthanasia and assisted suicide concerns the elimination of suffering at the end of life, whereas, when reading the euthanasia laws in Belgium, the Netherlands, Québec and the rest of Canada (Bill C-14) it is clear that legalizing euthanasia is actually about the rules that medical professionals should follow in order to cause the death of a patient. The question of choice and autonomy is the theory, but not necessarily the reality. 

Sheldon@CONTEXT: The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition believes both Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide should "continue to be treated as murder/homicide, irrespective of whether the person killed has consented to be killed.” What given insight would you offer to families with minors suffering with a terminal illness and looking to have a peaceful end of life?

Alex Schadenberg: First of all, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition recognizes that euthanasia represents a form of murder/homicide, based on what the act actually is, but assisted suicide is similar but different. Since assisted death comprises both euthanasia and assisted suicide, the actual responses have become confused. Euthanasia is when someone else actually causes my death, theoretically based on my request. Assisted suicide is when someone provides a lethal dose, but I take the lethal dose myself (assisting a suicide). Whether euthanasia is legal or not, it remains an act of homicide. Bill C-14 gives pharmacists, medical and nurse practitioners, and anyone assisting them, legal immunity for acts of euthanasia and assisted suicide. 

Sheldon@CONTEXT: How does Faith or religion play a roll in weighing-in on doctor assisted death for the preservation of life – especially thinking of minors?

Alex Schadenberg: Preservation of life is not actually a religious concept, but rather the concept is "thou shall not kill." The role of people of faith, whether they are medical professionals or caring lay people, is to care for people in their time of need and not kill them.

Traditionally a caring society was measured by how it cared for its most vulnerable citizens. Killing our most vulnerable citizens is not a caring act, even when they are experiencing difficult conditions, but rather providing them excellent physical, psychological, social, emotional and spiritual care (caring for the whole person) is what is required of a caring society. 

When the law gives people legal immunity to kill other citizens, even if they should ask for it, the law is actually abandoning these people and providing the person who causes death, the power over the life of the other person.

Let's be clear, there are many reasons why someone may feel that there life has lost value and ask to have their life ended, but when we give someone the right in law to cause that death, the question should be how do I care for the sufferer to alleviate or eliminate the suffering, not how do I kill the sufferer.



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