It’s Still Illegal But Canadian Doctors are Preparing to Facilitate Assisted Suicides

International   |   Dave Andrusko   |   Dec 22, 2014   |   6:01PM   |   Ottawa, Canada

With the Supreme Court of Canada considering whether the federal prohibition that outlaws assisted suicide is unconstitutional, the Canadian Medical Association is “quietly preparing for possible changes in federal laws governing physician-assisted death,” as the Canadian newspaper the National Post put it over the weekend.

What we learn in Sharon Kirkey’s story about how this “preparation” is taking place is deeply disturbing

We’ve also had long conversations with the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland,” Dr. Jeff Blackmer, the CMA’s director of ethics, tells Kirkey. “We’re now in the process of internal consultation and thought processing to look at some of the options and possibilities, to try to come up with a reasonable suggested framework and approach.”

We also learn that “The CMA has spent the past year consulting medical associations in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico, U.S. jurisdictions where physician-assisted death is legal, to find out ‘what has worked, what hasn’t worked and how Canada can learn from those experiences,’” Blackmer said.

I understand that if you are girding for (or eagerly anticipating) some form of legalized physician-assisted suicide, you would go to nations (or individual states in the United States) where physician-assisted suicide is taking place.

But does anyone believe that countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands are going to tell the full truth? That in a blink of the eye the pool of eligibles who are being “assisted” to die includes people who are not terminally ill, or necessarily physically ill at all–up to and including children?

elderlypatient16bOr will they highlight that “the euthanasia of a transsexual repelled by the results of a sex change operation; the euthanasia of a depressed anorexia patient who wanted to die after being sexually exploited by her psychiatrist; the joint euthanasia of deaf twins, who asked to be killed together when both began losing their eyesight; the joint euthanasia of elderly couples who preferred immediate death to eventual widowhood,” ?as Wesley Smith has written

Or that “The legislature of the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel has voted overwhelmingly to force government-funded nursing homes to allow representatives of assisted suicide groups to advertise their services,” according to Michael Cook, with “no exemptions for conscientious objection by managers in the homes”?

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Or closer to home, as Dr. Peter Saunders has written, that “Since assisted suicide was legalised in Oregon there has been a steady annual increase in the number of prescriptions written for lethal drugs and in numbers of people killing themselves”?

Kirkey quotes Dr. Blackmer saying that if there is a change in law, doctors opposed to physician-assisted death “will be looking to us for protection of their conscience and their right not to participate.” We can only hope the CMA is “at the table” if and when changes are made.

But the brunt of the story is to push a theme: that once the CMA was rock-solid against physician-assisted suicide but increasingly less so now. Over the past two years

the CMA has held a series of public, as well as doctor-only town hall meetings and online consultations. As doctors learn more about the experiences in other jurisdictions, “more and more doctors are saying, ‘Okay. I feel more comfortable, like there might be a scenario one could imagine where this type of intervention wouldn’t be abused,” Blackmer said.

No abuse? This reminds you of the adage, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

At the same time Kirkey tells us “that 20 to 30 per cent of doctors would be prepared to help terminally ill patients end their lives, should physician-assisted death become legalized,” she also writes

In a recent article in the journal HealthcarePapers, Blackmer and past CMA president Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti said many doctors remain “terrified” by the prospect of a change in federal law.

When a doctor enters a patient’s room, “their purpose is clear: to cure when possible, to care always,” they wrote. “The fact that they might actively hasten the patient’s death does not enter into the equation.”

But Kirkey reverses course again: “In an interview, Blackmer said some doctors see aid in dying as an extension of compassionate, end-of-life care.”

Physician-assisted suicide is, of course, nothing of the sort. Turning the purpose of medicine upside down not only sends the profession into turmoil, it also opens the door to a virtually infinite expansion, as the writers quoted above make abundantly clear.

We’ve written many, many posts about assisted suicide in Canada. At this juncture we can only hope and pray that the Supreme Court of Canada backs away from the abyss. Note: Dave Andrusko is the editor of National Right to Life News and an author and editor of several books on abortion topics. This post originally appeared at National Right to Life News Today.