Euthanasia or Premeditated Death

EDITORIAL:“The game has begun” … recommendations contained in the 180-page report prepared by the Parliamentary Committee of Quebec, a legislative bill two years in the making, deals with the legalization of euthanasia, specifically in cases involving incurable illnesses. The bill has been deposited before the Quebec government, with suggested finalization date of June 2013 at the latest. This bill still rejects, however, the legalization of assisted suicide which will remain a criminal offence. Limited public consultation was held involving citizens and about thirty experts in various fields.

A referendum could have been an acceptable solution, a public consultation which should have been of the utmost importance. It seems to have been preferable to minimize the issue in order to avoid making waves; even the media seems to remain indifferent to this debate, more inclined to elaborate on the events of the Charbonneau Commission -- corruption being a topic of media coverage which proves to be more profitable than that involving euthanasia.

Even if the latest surveys report 70% to 80% in favor of the legalization of euthanasia, the fact still exists that a large majority of the public remain indifferent to this debate, feeling that the issue does not pertain to their lives, only the lives of others. In Quebec, we live in too permissive a society, one run by its minorities, which gives Europeans the erroneous impression that we are an advanced society.

The bill to legalize euthanasia does involve a minority but not unlike many other bills presented before the Quebec government, it is one that legislates for a group of people and not for the majority. Why should we worry about this issue?….In an attempt to camouflage the reality of the issues involved, the Parliamentary Committee plays the word-game and avoids using the term ‘euthanasia’ which comes from the Greek word (well) and thanatos (death), preferring to use the term “medically assisted death”, which opens the door to a multitude of profound and irreconcilable ethical contradictions. The current practice in hospitals today is that doctors and nurses, in respect to their professional code of ethics, must provide life-saving medical assistance and do no harm, regardless of the gravity of the illness and suffering.  

If this bill is passed, these professionals will have to revise the rules within their code of ethics. Can such changes take place within a harmonious agreement? I doubt it… After having accepted many other forms of euthanasia such as the legal execution of someone condemned to death (by law) or the euthanasia of our domestic animals and animals to satisfy our meat consumption; crossing the line toward human euthanasia becomes too easy… in hospitals, the practice of “passive euthanasia” already exists within the palliative care scenario: the frequently used practice of proportioning powerful sedatives and pain medications, easing the patient towards an unquestionable death, within a short period of time, entering into a state of semi-consciousness…because, we have evolved into a world where suffering must be alleviated, at all costs.

If passed, the euthanasia bill, in cases of a diagnosis of serious illness (without hope of an existing cure) will be the ultimate and immediate solution - no turning back, whether at a hospital or at home. The final decision, first and foremost, I believe should rest on the shoulders of the patient or family members, if need be, who must have confidence in the diagnosis of two doctors; this decision should be given in writing or by notarial decree.

Euthanasia will then become an acceptable premeditated death, contrary to what is the current position of the Commission which is not to allow a person to die in dignity. There is really nothing to be gained in this radical and final approach. For some, this could be perceived as a barbarian way to end someone’s life, without any religious and philosophical consideration. Moreover, what will be the position of the Catholic Church, vis-à-vis this project? Will we soon see a box to check for euthanasia on the back of our health insurance cards like we see for organ donations? Between life and death, we are obliged to choose death over any last hope of life…  

In conclusion, I would like you to meditate on this heartfelt plea by Margaret Somerville, full professor of law and medicine from McGill University, an extract from her memoires submitted to the Commission under “Consultation by experts”: “We must also show that there are solid secular arguments against euthanasia, for example, that legalization would undermine the very important value pertaining to the respect of life and would modify the fundamental principal that states that we should not take the life of another human being”. ..