Say “No” to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide:
No Special Circumstance Can Justify Them
Abridged version of a brief presented to the Collège des Médecins du Québec, August 30 2009, by Joseph Ayoub, m.d., André Bourque, m.d., Catherine Ferrier, m.d., François Lehmann, m.d. and José Maurais, m.d.. The brief has also been endorsed by a significant number of physicians in the province of Québec.
The issue of decriminalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide has reared its head over and over again in Canada and Quebec for the past 20 years. The proponents of euthanasia justify their position on the need to respect the autonomy and “dignity” of the individual. In recent years some cases have gone before the courts, and the Supreme Court of Canada has reaffirmed the intrinsic value of human life and the limits governing an individual’s freedom to decide to end his or her own life. So the pro‐euthanasia lobby has turned to its only possible legal recourse: an amendment of the Criminal Code by the Parliament of Canada. Bill C‐384, introduced by Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde, is the latest attempt.
In the September 1970 edition of California Medicine, a publication of the Western Journal of Medicine, an article entitled "A New Ethic for Medicine and Society" explained that the traditional western ethic has always placed great emphasis on the intrinsic worth and equal value of every human life regardless of its stage or condition.
This ethic has its roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition and has, in fact, provided the basis for most of our laws and much of our social policy. In this article, it was suggested that the Judeo-Christian ethic is being gradually eroded in order to validate the pragmatic solutions which would accommodate the expansion of social engineering. They also warned that in order for a dilution of this ethic to be successful, it would be necessary to separate the idea of killing from such acts as abortion and death control (assisted suicide and euthanasia).
Euthanasia is a word coined from Greek in the 17th century to refer to an easy, painless, happy death. In modern times, however, it has come to mean a physician's causing a patient's death by injection of a lethal dose of medication. In physician-assisted suicide, the physician prescribes the lethal dose, knowing the patient intends to end their life.
Giving medicine to relieve suffering, even if it risks or causes death, is not assisted suicide or euthanasia; nor is withdrawing treatments that only prolong a painful dying process. Like the general public, many in the medical profession are not clear about these distinctions. Terms like assisted death or death with dignity blur these distinctions, implying that a special law is necessary to make such practices legal--in most countries they already are.
Eighth Annual Report on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act
Thirty-eight people died in Oregon in 2005 after taking lethal medication given to them by their doctors. Only two were given psychiatric evaluations to determine the state of their mental health.