The slippery slope of euthanasia and assisted suicide

elderly man with hat

The Québec government’s Bill 52 does not restrict euthanasia to the terminally ill. It would allow people who have a serious and incurable illness, who “suffer from an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability” or those who are in “constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain, which cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable” to avail themselves of euthanasia. Multiple sclerosis, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease are  incurable illnesses but usually patients live with these illnesses for many years. Medicine has more to offer patients than abandonment to euthanasia and assisted suicide. Euthanasia would involve the physician giving a lethal injection to the patient. Euthanasia is not medical care it is killing.

Proponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia attempt to convince us that the slippery slope does not exist and that effective safeguards could be enacted which would guarantee that all euthanasia and assisted suicide deaths would be voluntary, this despite an abundance of data which proves otherwise. Legalizing euthanasia has consequences. In jurisdictions where it is legal safeguards have not protected patients.  32% of euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium from June to November 2007 were done without the patient’s explicit request according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal of June 2010.

In the Netherlands, patients have also been euthanised without request or consent. According to Dutch government statistics, 310 individuals had their lives ended by euthanasia without explicit request. The Netherlands also permits euthanasia of infants with disabilities through the Groningen protocol. 23% of euthanasia deaths were not reported in the Netherlands in 2010. (Lancet July 2012)

Canadian palliative care consultant and nurse educator Jean Echlin said “that one person’s autonomy could be another’s death sentence.”

Euthanasia and assisted suicide fundamentally alter the role of the physician from one of healer to killer. Euthanasia and suicide advocates would have you believe that death with dignity can be achieved by a lethal injection or a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs.  Killing the patient is much cheaper than offering quality end of life care. There is a better way to handle patient needs and fears than to propose that doctors become death dealers.

 

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