By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
Living with Dignity (LWD), a network of anti-euthanasia groups in Quebec, has condemned the province’s Select Committee on Dying with Dignity report’s support for euthanasia as “dangerous” and a “profound act of political betrayal.”
After holding consultations across the province last year, on Mar. 22 the committee recommended the legalization of euthanasia for people experiencing constant, unbearable physical or psychological suffering.
"From the outset of the committee's consultation, Quebecers were guaranteed that their voices would be heard and that the direction they gave would be followed,” said Dr. Andre Bourque, president of LWD. “On the basis of that promise, Quebecers spoke forcefully against opening the door to euthanasia and assisted suicide.”
“The committee has arrogantly and dangerously broken its word to the very people it promised to heed," he said.
An independent analysis revealed two-thirds of persons submitting briefs to the committee opposed any loosening of laws against euthanasia or assisted suicide, Bourque pointed out. One third supported euthanasia, while only two per cent supported assisted suicide.
The family physician and McGill Medical School assistant professor said the committee did not listen to the majority of interveners but instead to a special interest clique pushing for the decriminalization of both euthanasia and assisted suicide.
"Why waste nearly $1 million in taxpayers' money just to say what they knew they were going to say anyway?” he asked. “Were the hearings just an expensive publicity stunt?”
He urged Quebeckers to hold the MNAs on the committee accountable in the next election “for betraying Quebecers.”
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) also rejected the report. EPC executive director Alex Schadenberg said the palliative care recommendations are mere “‘window-dressing’ in the face of an immediate demand to legalize euthanasia.”
Previous recommendations to improve palliative care have not been implemented, Schadenberg said, leaving many without end of life care. Current budget pressures mean these recommendations will not be implemented either, he said.
“Legalizing euthanasia before first improving palliative and end-of-life care means that Quebecers cannot claim that euthanasia will be ‘freely chosen’ because they are denied access to essential end-of-life care,” he said.
LifeCanada, a national educational pro-life organization warned the recommendation “amounts to legalizing euthanasia by the ‘back door.’”
LifeCanada Executive Director Natalie Hudson Sonnen said the recommendation would remove Criminal Code protection for vulnerable Canadians. It would allow authorities to ignore instances where sick, elderly or disabled persons are killed,” she said. “It breeds disrespect for the law, sends the message that some lives are not worth protecting, and takes us down a road we dare not go.”
Hudson Sonnen warned that serious abuse could develop like that in Holland and Belgium.
The Catholic Civil Rights League said it supported the palliative care recommendations.
“However, making any euthanasia legal, even with the proposed safeguards and restrictions, diminishes the inherent sanctity of life and could lead to pressure on the disabled, the frail elderly and other vulnerable populations,” said League executive director Joanne McGarry. “Liberalizing euthanasia could also put pressure on the religious and conscientious freedom of doctors and other medical professionals who are pro-life.”
The League said the report recommends the province introduce legislation to make its recommendations law by June 2013, but euthanasia falls under the Criminal Code which is federal jurisdiction. The League warned the recommendation could “easily re-ignite national debate on the matter.”
It noted the last private member’s bill by Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia was defeated in 2010 by a vote of 228 to 59 in the House of Commons.