By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
Anti-euthanasia groups, including a new physician’s organization, are pushing back against Parti Quebecois plans to bring in euthanasia under the euphemistic guise of “medical aid in dying.”
Quebec grassroots group Living with Dignity director Linda Couture said the Quebec elite is masking its euthanasia plans behind the words “medical aid in dying” without defining them, she said. “Does it mean [lethally] injecting people or not?”
Couture expressed alarm at how fast the government is moving, noting the new government hopes to have a bill passed by June next year.
In early October, Radio station CJAD reported Parti Quebecois junior social services minister Veronique Hivon said she hoped to introduce legislation soon to help people who face unbearable end-of-life suffering.
Though euthanasia and assisted suicide are both illegal in Canada’s Criminal Code, and under federal jurisdiction, Hivon said health is a provincial matter. The province could also direct Crown prosecutors not to prosecute cases of assisted death that fall under the guidelines for “medical aid in dying,” she said.
Couture said using health care and directing prosecutors in this manner is bringing in “euthanasia through the back door,” while hiding behind a vague, nice-sounding phrase.
The province’s plans to move in this direction stem from recommendations of an all-party Dying with Dignity committee that held hearings across Quebec and released its report last March, Couture said.
Though 60 per cent of the presenters to this committee opposed euthanasia and assisted suicide, the committee’s report recommended “medical assistance in dying” for those suffering and close to death. It ignored grassroots rejection of euthanasia and assisted suicide, Couture said.
“Everybody’s in favor of palliative care,” she said. “’Let’s work on what unites us not what divides us.”
Couture dared the small group of physicians who are pushing for euthanasia to put their faces on a public poster the way members of a new physicians organization has.
“They want to do it anonymously,” she said.
The new Physicians' Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia is led by the renowned Dr. Balfour Mount, who is considered the father of palliative care in Canada. The new group boasts 24 prominent physicians who have allowed their pictures to be published.
“We are physicians who see any law allowing doctors to intentionally end the life of their patients as contrary to the goals of medicine and the good of our patients, especially the most vulnerable and those who cannot speak for themselves,” says the group’s website http://totalrefusal.blogspot.ca. “We intend to make known to the public the grave dangers inherent in such a law.”
“People would no longer feel secure in our health care institutions with the decriminalization of euthanasia,” the doctors say.
At their website, they have a declaration and petition for both doctors and concerned citizens to circulate and send to their provincial representatives.
“To provoke death voluntarily, by lethal injection or any other method, cannot be considered under any circumstance as “medical care”, and is contrary to medical ethics,” the declaration says. “It is never necessary to kill a patient in order to end his or her suffering.”
“People are mobilizing in Quebec against this,” said Couture. She also said elderly people are becoming afraid to go to hospital even though this measure has not been brought in yet.
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition director Alex Schadenberg said Quebec’s “medical aid in dying” sleight of hand could bring in Belgium-style euthanasia, with all the abuses that country has seen. If “medical aid in dying” means doctor’s giving patients lethal injections, that is euthanasia, he explained on his blog. Doctors writing prescriptions for patients knowing they will use the drugs to kill themselves is doctor-assisted suicide, he said.
The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) said Hivon’s plans to introduce a bill are not a surprise because it was part of the Parti Quebecois’ platform. But she questioned whether the government listened to palliative care experts or the democratic results of the Dying with Dignity consultations.
“Medicine, today, can control almost any pain,” said COLF director Michele Boulva. “And, in extreme cases, palliative sedation can be used to relieve patients.”
The pro-euthanasia lobby has been trying to show Belgium-style euthanasia is working well, she said, but that’s not what a group of Belgian professionals said in a Manifesto signed last June.
In it, they said the slippery slope they had warned of ten years ago when Belgium decriminalized euthanasia had become a reality.
“We are now very worried by suggestions that minors and mentally ill people could also be euthanized,” the Manifesto says. “As we expected, once the prohibition has been lifted, we are rapidly moving towards the banalisation of euthanasia.”
The practice has also undermined the bonds of “solidarity, trust and authentic compassion,” the Manifesto says.
“Can you even imagine teaching future doctors how to kill?” Boulva asked.
“COLF encourages Quebec Catholics and all people who have any respect for the inalienable dignity and worth of all human beings, to contact their elected members of the Assemblée nationale, asking them with insistence to oppose any attempt to legalize euthanasia.”
“This lethal practice must not enter our hospitals,” she said.