Paul Schratz, communications director for the Archdiocese of Vancouver thinks the recent decision from the Canadian Medical Association to maintain Canada's 400-year-old definition of a human being was an act of "bio-redefinition." SXC.hu.
By Paul Schratz
Canada's doctors voted last week to take a political rather than medical position that human life begins at birth, in the process closing their eyes to science and the evidence of their own senses.
In a spectacular act of bio-redefinition that has many observers scratching their heads, the Canadian Medical Association voted to support the maintaining of a section of the Criminal Code of Canada that declares a child becomes a human being at the moment of birth.
It was a move of pure politics and obviously an attempt to steer clear of MP Stephen Woodworth's Motion 312, which would review Canada's 400-year-old definition of "human" that is based on English common law. The second hour of debate on the motion is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 21, and the doctors clearly don't want to be any part of it.
So they've chosen the intellectually indefensible position that an unborn child, moments away from birth, is not human, which essentially means scores of medical textbooks, not to mention the entire field of fetal medicine, now need to be retired. After all, if doctors who are removing tumours or repairing spinal cords on unborn babies aren't working on humans, one wonders why they would spend years training to be doctors rather than veterinarians.
It's par for the CMA, however, which has been developing a habit recently of wading into political issues. At its annual meeting in Yellowknife the MDs also passed a motion calling for a public debate that would lead to a free vote in the House of Commons on the issue of end-of-life care.
That echoes an editorial in their CMA Journal last month which called for a national debate on death and dying. The country's leading medical journal said it's time for Canadians to debate whether we are prepared to embrace "therapeutic homicide."
Now if the doctors truly want to engage in politics, as is becoming more evident, the least we should be able to expect from them, besides some respect for science, is consistency.
So why is it that the same doctors who, when it comes to euthanasia, are in favour of debate and open to rethinking when life ends, are at the same time opposed to discussion that might lead to a rethinking of when life begins?
It's especially curious since the issue of end-of-life care in Canada has been studied and voted on countless times - as recently as last November's Parliamentary Committee on Compassionate and Palliative Care, which called for improvements to palliative care and a commitment to a national suicide prevention strategy. The CMA welcomed that report, saying "End-of-life care is an area that requires urgent attention."
Indeed, through the years and all the many debates, reports, and votes on euthanasia and palliative care, there has been one consistent conclusion: parliamentarians and Canadians want more and better end-of-life care, not euthanasia.
While the doctors want to continually debate end-of-life care, they curiously have no appetite for debate the one time a politician questions why we're still using a centuries-old definition of human life that says it begins at birth, against all scientific and logical evidence to the contrary.
Some time ago a Newsweek article on the subject of fetal health care stated, "Twenty-five years ago scientists knew little about the molecular and genetic journey from embryo to full-term fetus." The same could be said about politicians 400 years ago.
Sadly, the same can now be said about Canadian doctors in 2012.
Paul Schratz is Communications Director for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. This article was originally published in the Vancouver Sun.