When I read Bill C-1 4 regarding euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, many problems come to mind.
Firstly, media is describing Bill C-14 as a civil rights bill that is focused on giving people who are diseased or disabled, the "choice" to end their lives. As a disabled person myself, a bill that gives disabled people the right to end their lives prematurely is troubling in itself because it encourages those who are fighting against diseases and disabilities to give up in their battle for life.
It insinuates that death by euthanasia will magically put an end to not only personal hardships, but the hardships of those around them who are forced to endure everything involved with caring for a person who is battling an incurable disease or disability. This sends a message to everyone who is struggling or vulnerable that they are a burden on society in their current state and that it is somehow considered to be more dignified for a person facing these mammoth challenges to give up, instead of continuing to fight courageously until the bitter end.
It was shocking to learn that Bill C-14 is not about empowering people with disabilities to end their suffering; instead, it is about granting doctors immunity from homicide charges as homicide will be conducted as an acceptable method of treatment for someone who is suffering from grievous medical circumstances. It should be mentioned that this bill doesn’t change any of the existing language within the Criminal Code of Canada pertaining to the definitions of both: murder and culpable homicide.
Instead, exemptions are simply added to the criminal code, which allow medical practitioners and those assisting them the ability to be exempt from any charges, which would ordinarily result from homicide involvement. This of course brings to mind a multitude of questions regarding whether homicide is ever an acceptable treatment, regardless of the circumstance.
Bill C-14 acknowledges that only certain people are eligible for the "treatment", and must fit the following requirements:
*they must be 18 years old and capable of making decisions regarding healthcare,
*they must also be battling a lifelong impairment that cannot be treated in any other manner acceptable to the patient.
*the patient must be declining in capability to the point that their impending death is "reasonably foreseeable"
*the patient must also consent to the particular treatment that will be used to induce their death. Lastly, their request to participate in the treatment must not be made as a result of external pressure.
Aside from the vague wording of the bill, which renders many of its safeguards ineffective, and allows a relatively large number of people to be eligible for euthanasia, there are many aspects of this bill that bother me including its conflicting language:
*the statement that a person’s request to participate must not be "made as a result of external pressure" is the most glaring example.
Knowing that assisted suicide is legal will put pressure on all potential participants to consider pursuing the treatment.
However, if the treatment were to be illegal and was also considered by our society and medical system to be unacceptable, very few patients would even think to pursue it.
In conjunction with this belief, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the number of requests and inquiries related to physician assisted suicide continues to grow with each coming year, in conjunction with the acceptance of the "treatment".
Also supporting the seemingly evident societal shift in ethics, it would not be surprising if the restrictions and safeguards of this law become less stringent over time.
I believe that both the use of and access to euthanasia as a form of treatment will be expanded as time moves on. The evolution of euthanasia in both Belgium and The Netherlands foreshadow this.
Furthermore, the bill also contains a mandate that an independent review regarding whether minors and patients who are solely battling mental illness should have access to this treatment. The review process must be initiated within 180 days of the bill receiving royal assent. This clause shows the potentially expansive nature of euthanasia within our society over the years to come.