The final report of a non-partisan panel’s consultations on the politically charged issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia remains inaccessible to the general public days after being delivered to federal ministers.
Earlier this week the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada delivered their report to the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Honourable Dr. Jane Philpott, Minister of Health. In a joint statement the ministers promised to make the report available in the coming weeks.
However, the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying made its report and recommendations public on Monday, December 14. By releasing the provincial report before the federal report, the public debate is shaped by the radical nature of the provincial report.
Found among the 43 brazen recommendations are reckless proposals for the killing of children, the mentally ill and patients suffering from dementia. Mark Penninga, Executive Director of the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada, condemned the provincial panel’s approach. “Metaphorically, the panel is recommending that Canadians and our lawmakers should give assistance to a vulnerable 12-year-old cancer patient standing on the edge of a bridge by offering to give her a shove, rather than to coax her off the ledge and offer her the resources and care she requires. It’s cold-blooded. When is that shove ever an acceptable answer to a young child crying out for help?”
André Schutten, legal counsel with ARPA Canada, found the provincial panel’s report very disturbing. “When combing through the recommendations, it is very clear that these proposals are driven by a fixed purpose to make assisted suicide and euthanasia as freely accessible as possible, regardless of societal harm. That desire runs in the face of social welfare and of legal, moral and medical ethics and standards. The report’s conclusions are truly horrifying. If implemented, this will result in the most lethal form of discrimination.”
Penninga also voiced concerns about the provincial panel’s direction. “Right from the beginning, this provincial panel contained only pro-euthanasia activists, with no attempt to balance their position. They intentionally push the boundaries of what the Supreme Court has permitted. Contrary to what these panelists may wish to write into law, Parliament still has the first say and can reaffirm that human life is sacred.” Penninga noted the importance of making public the federal panel’s recommendations as soon as possible. “The federal panel was much more balanced, with a plurality of views on the issue and with palliative experts on the panel.”
ARPA Canada intervened in the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter euthanasia case and presented written arguments to the court. ARPA Canada also made written and oral submissions to the provincial panel considering legislative options, urging caution. ARPA Canada implored the panel to consider the constitutionally available mechanism of an amendment to the Criminal Code that would protect all human life without requiring the use of the politically unpopular notwithstanding clause.
Schutten argued that the federal panel’s recommendations should trump those of the provincial panel. “The Supreme Court was very clear: even if legalized, euthanasia and assisted suicide remain a criminal law matter, not simply a matter of health care. The provinces do not get to determine whether a practice will be decriminalized or to what extent. The provincial report simply does not have that level of authority.”
“Frankly, it is impossible to enact adequate safeguards when a decision to kill is based on how someone feels about themselves,” Mark Penninga concluded, “what logically and legally will happen when that sacred line is crossed is that vulnerable children, elderly Canadians and those with mental illnesses will be next on the chopping block. The provincial panel just proved that for us.”