Legalizing Assisted Suicide A Recipe for Elder Abuse

International   |   Alex Schadenberg   |   Nov 15, 2011   |   1:52PM   |   Ottawa, Canada

The Vancouver Province published a thorough article by Sean Sullivan Monday about the protest that was organized by Euthanasia Prevention Coalition-British Columbia on the steps of the court house in Vancouver. The article is titled: Legalizing Assisted Suicide ‘a recipe for elder abuse.’ says protesters.

The article also featured John Coppard, who was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago. Coppard contacted us with his story. The following is a reprint of the article:

Legalized Assisted Suicide ‘a recipe for elder abuse,’ says protesters

Protesters opposed to changes in Canada’s suicide law gathered in front of the Vancouver Law Courts Monday morning, warning that legalizing assisted suicide would open the floodgates for elder abuse.

A court challenge launched in B.C. Supreme Court has the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Gloria Taylor, a 63-year-old woman suffering from ALS, challenging Canada’s laws that forbid doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

Opponents, however, argue that physician-assisted suicides will see the medical system steer patients toward suicide and allow greedy children intent on inheriting their parents wealth will force them into choosing death.

“In the messy real world that I work in as a family physician, I have no illusions but that improper inducement to end their lives prematurely would be given to a lot of the elderly,” Dr. Will Johnston said.

“We need a strong law that prevents people urging or facilitating others to commit suicide.”

Speaking in his experience as a doctor who provides capability assessments on “frail, elderly people,” Johnston said it’s typical to see victims who have been induced to do things that are completely against their self-interest. Gutting the law against assisted suicide will do more harm than good, he said.

“Sadly, children are the worst abusers of the elderly. We have a national problem with suicide and a natural problem with elder abuse.

“And here we have a case that would undercut our efforts to constrain both of those problems.”
About 70 people, holding signs with messages such as “Assisted suicide a recipe for elder abuse,” braved the brisk, fall wind to stand on the steps of the Law Courts Monday.

Among them was John Coppard, 45, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, in 2009. A new medication helped him recover, though he said that at his “lowest points,” he may have chosen assisted suicide had it been offered to him.

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the law that disallowed assisted suicide,” Coppard said. “The illnesses people are talking about inside (the court) are not death sentences any more.

“People (diagnosed with a terminal illness) can live for decades,” he said. Note: Alex Schadenberg is the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.