This past Wednesday, June 12, 2013, the Quebec government tabled Bill 52 - "An Act respecting end-of-life care," legislation aimed at permitting euthanasia.
Not a law yet, it will debated this Fall for the purpose of becoming law.
In an effort to bring clarity to the discussion, within my own mind at least, I've come across a couple of good commentaries.
(To view the 20-page proposed legislation, learn about the stages of consideration, and leave a comment about the bill, visit the provincial website.)
First, the following points come from Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, appearing in a letter and then in a subsequent blog.
- Contrary to the comments by many media outlets and some media releases from prolife groups, Bill 52 does not authorize assisted suicide (Section 241 of the Criminal Code).
- Bill 52 legalizes euthanasia under the euphemism medical aid in dying. Euthanasia is a form of homicide. The difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide is: Euthanasia is an act whereby the physician or someone else causes your death (homicide) and Assisted suicide is an act whereby the physician or someone else provides the means (lethal dose) and you take it yourself (assisting a suicide).
- The bill is clear, the doctor administers, that means euthanasia. Assisted suicide is when the doctor prescribes.
- The supposed safeguards that the Quebec government have chosen are nearly identical to the current Belgian model.
- The Belgium model differs from the Netherlands model in the way it is administered and paid for. The Belgian model administers and pays for the act of euthanasia through its palliative care system. The Belgian model only authorizes euthanasia by physicians, but assisted suicide does occur sometimes.
- The Quebec government is defining euthanasia as a medical act, within the continuum of palliative care.
- The palliative care system may or may not accept euthanasia within Quebec, but it is being defined in that manner.
In the blog, his introductory note on why we should oppose the practice of euthanasia is well worth repeating. These are:
- No person, institution or government agency should be given the right or power to take the life of a human person.
- The power of one person, to cause the death of another person, will be abused. Human interaction often includes some level of abuse. In this circumstance the abuse results in the death of a human person.
- Discrimination exists towards identified groups of people or individuals. Legalizing euthanasia, for instance, threatens the lives of people with disabilities.
Regarding the second of these three points, Schadenberg cites in this blog several studies indicating as much in Belgium.
A second writer who provides commentary on different sections of the bill ist into the nitty-gritty of Bill 52 is Wesley Smith. He has written two pieces found here and here. In these two articles he examines sections - 3, 8, 26, and 29.
Once again, Bill 52 - "An Act respecting end-of-life care," may be viewed here.
Summer might be around the corner, but a pro-lifer's work is never done !
I believe there are TWO main things we can do to continue fighting this bill. One thing we must do NOW, the other during the summer
What to do:
Toll Free: 1 866 337-8837
or follow this link.
2) During the SUMMER, MNA's go back to their home riding to touch base with their voters. They attend BBQs, corn-roasts, sidewalk sales and all sorts of other events throughout the summer. Take advantage of this opportunity to connect with your MNA and tell them in no uncertain terms that you think legalising euthanasia in Quebec is a terrible idea. Once again, to find out who your MNA is or where his or her office is, follow this link.
What else can I do:
1. First, the essential thing: put your head down and pray! Wherever you are, pray for a moment that God will heal the spiritual blindness of too many of our fellow citizens which leads them to believe that killing is an act of compassion and suicide a worthy and befeficial gesture. Also ask forgiveness for any way in which we could have contributed to this general lack of respect for life.
Georges Buscemi, president of the Quebec Life Coalition
While attending this past Saturday's Springtime March protesting the Quebec government's plan to permit euthanasia, I eerily felt I had been transported to Holland.
First, the lanscape was awashed with tulips. Among the more than 1500 gathered on this sunny day to march from the Plains of Abraham to the National Assembly, I arrived at the legislature to be greeted by beds of tulips.
The walkways along the font lawn leading to the provincial building had been decorated with several beds as had the fountain with a ring of red tulips circling it.
Could there be a better symbol for this European country?
Well, yes, there happens to be a better, though more infamous, symbol of that country of 6+ million souls. It is its euthanasia policy.
Since 2002, when the "Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act" came into effect, Holland has gained the infamous distinction of being one of a few principalities worldwide permitting the legal killing of its citizenry.
Yet, on this day, I was not in Holland but in Quebec and yet our elected officials are determined to imitate its European ally in more ways than one.
I'm fond of tulips, despite its characteristic of wilting too quickly.
I'm not fond of "medical aid in dying," as the authors of the impending law have euphemistically referred to euthanasia. It amounts to the deliberate ending of a human life.
The Quebec Life Coalition was present on Saturday to lend its voice with the many other groups and individuals present against the plans of the current government. One such group is the physician outfit called "Total Refusal of Euthanasia." They have drafted a declaration found here, which I encourage all to read and sign.
For more photos and a story, click here.
THE SPRINGTIME MARCH:
Euthanasia, in our province, NO THANKS!
Quebec City, Saturday, May 18, 2013
Chartered Bus leaving Montreal
The Springtime March against the government legislation permitting euthanasia and assisted suicide will be held this coming Saturday, May 18, 2013, in Quebec City.
Would like to join us for this event? The Quebec Life Coalition is chartering a bus to permit you to participate.
The price per round-trip ticket is $35. Family discounts are available.
Our schedule reads as follows:
- Departures – 7 a.m. 895, De la Gauchetière West
- 9 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of the Cape – Trois-Rivières (French)
- Noon Gathering on Plains of Abraham – Québec City
- 1:45 p.m. Walk to the National Assembly
- 2:45 p.m. Arrival at National Assembly – speeches.
- 4:30 p.m. Closing Prayer
- 6:00 p.m. Board buses and return to Montreal
Cost: $35 per person, round-trip. Family discounts available.
Registering: Before May 17 at (438) 930-8643 or (514) 344-2686. Or email us at email@example.com.
Also, bring a lunch! (There will also be a canteen on-site.)
It's time to ring the alarm !
Euthanasia is at our doors. We only have a few weeks (at most 3 or 4 months) to tell our MNAs to vote NO on a proposed law, soon to be tabled by the Parti québécois, that aims to de facto legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Quebec.
Legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide will create a pseudo-"right" to suicide. And when suicide becomes a right guaranteed by the State, that means that some people (doctors and other health-care professionals) will be given permission to kill others, according to certain criteria... On top of that, us taxpayers will be compelled to foot the bill for it all! Some people will consider this a good thing, because they think they will have their "clean" and "painless" deaths this way. However, other people (the elderly, the disabled, the poor, the depressed and others) will feel compelled to seek death as a result of psychological pressure (whether due to impatient family members, a lack of hospital beds, succession battles, inadequate support, etc.)
What to do?
Toll Free: 1 866 337-8837
or follow this link.
With your support, we will be able to tell the truth about the dangers of euthanasia in Quebec. Thank you for your support!
Georges Buscemi, president of the Quebec Life Coalition
A fortnight ago, Quebec's junior health minister Véronique Hivon announced that the provincial government is moving ahead with legislation aimed at permitting “dying with dignity.”
In the ensuing days, reaction was swift, both for and against this physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia bill that the government wishes to have in place before the summer break.
The following is a collection of articles and opinion appearing In Montreal's The Gazette - a daily publication, offering both a summary and links to each, where possible.
January 16: “End-of-life rules to be set out in new law,” Kevin Dougherty, A2.
This article treats the legislative and judiciary angles to Quebec’s proposed legislation for assisted suicide. After citing previous Canadian cases, the article presents the provincial government’s goal, based on a recently released study indicating what course to go. Also discussed is how the federal criminal code will be circumvented to permit.
Jan 16: “Not everyone agrees with panel’s controversial findings,” Katherine Wilton, A2.
The author presents several perspectives on physician-assisted suicide. First she summarizes the context as set by the provincial government for pursuing physician-assisted suicide program. From here she moves to treat the importance expanding palliative care services. A first physician is quoted acknowledging that the patient and no one else ought to decide. Next, a legal point is made about proper wording the legislation as not euthanasia nor assisted suicide but “dying with dignity.” Finally, a second palliative doctor is claimed to be an advocate as siding with euthanasia.
Jan 17: “Physician-assisted death will have tight rules,” Katherine Wilton, A8.
This article considers who the clients will be that benefit from the proposed legislation on physician-assisted suicide. It begins by citing a case in Oregon where the patient, a physician makes the decision for physician-assisted suicide. A second case concerns two Belgian twins who opted for death upon learning that they are going blind. Finally, the article ends by profiling the rules in the Quebec proposed legislation.
Jan 17: “A choice the terminally ill should be able to make,” The Gazette’s View, A18.
The Gazette’s editorial board describes as «sensible» the plans of the Quebec government to permit “people with debilitating terminal maladies the right to choose when and how to die.” The editorial rests its case on the report by a panel of “eminent legal experts” Furthermore, it claims that this course of action is endorsed by Quebecers, both in general and the professional ranks.
Jan 18: “A creeping culture of death,” Sherif Emil MD, Opinion, A15.
In this opinion piece, pediatric surgeon, Dr. Emil argues against the provincial government’s plan to enact legislation permitting physician-assisted suicide. The crux of his argument rests on his several decade experience of practicing in Quebec – from a student to working in the Montreal Children’s Hospital. In this period he has seen a degradation of the provincial health care network and that placing the patient in the position to decide his own fate is unfair particularly as it applies to children. Additional comments are made about the adverse moral stance of physicians and the ill-begotten Belgian model on which the Quebec one is based.
Jan 19: “Your Views” presents five letters with varying opinions on the proposed legislative course of the provincial government.
- William Raillant-Clark (re jan18)
Addressing the Emil article, the writer argues that individual rights trump whatever state the health care network is performing at.
- Dr. J.C .Pecknold… loss of dignity, intrinsic value of human life (re jan17)
The writer, a physician, argues against the proposed legislation as it would place members of his profession in an unethical position. Other comments about the importance of palliative care and the intrinsic value of human life are made.
- Robert Marcogliese (re jan17)
The author focuses on semantics, stating that “assisted-suicide” in not the same as “dying with dignity.”
- Shalom Spira (re jan17)
Mr. Spira questions under what authority can the government proceed with its stated course of action.
- Helene Bolduc, President, Association Quebecoise pour le droit de mourir dans la dignite (re jan15)
Ms. Bolduc takes up the individual rights argument in end-of-life matters. Further, she appears to wish to enlarge the scope of who could avail of the proposed legislaltion.
Jan 22: “No role for palliative care in euthanasia,” Dr. Manuel Borod, A16.
Addressing the article written by Mr. Dougherty (Jan16), Dr. Borod writes so as to clarify points that are confusing, misleading, and false. First, he states that the only new matter in the proposed legislation is the “right to have medical assistance in dying.” Second he notes that the end of palliative sedation is not the death of the patient as the article states but care that not “necessarily hastens death.” Finally, he states as Director of the division of Supportive and Palliative Care that the current objective “that all our patients die with dignity” and that the proposed legislation is a smokescreen for allowing “an act that directly causes death.”
Jan 23: “Euthanasia would be better than how my mother died,” Dianne Laheurte, Opinion, A17.
Dianne Laheurte writes in favour of euthanasia. She describes the death of her mother over a four year period, one characterized by gradual deterioration and adverse emotional impact on her and both of her parents.
I find Mr. Spina’s observation interesting - what authority does the provincial government have to proceed with this legislative initiative. For example, the briefs presented at the “Dying with Dignity” provincial tour overwhelming favoured a course toward improved palliative care to the exclusion of both euthanasia or assisted suicide, many of whom were from the medical profession.
On the topic of dignity, it seems that dignity already exists in the care for those who are terminally ill. Drs. Emil and Borod write about this and both are well placed to know.
Also, it seems that if life lacks a certain quality about it, then it is not worth living. Hence individuals do want to be hindered in ending their lives.
This article was published in The Gazette by Dr. Sherif Emil, pediatric surgeon at the Montreal Children’s Hospital
At the entry to Paris’s oldest hospital, the Hôtel Dieu, are these words: “To cure occasionally, to relieve often, to comfort always.” Medical historians ascribe this aphorism to Hippocrates, who also gave us our medical oath, an important principle of which is to not kill. And yet a culture of death, frequently disguised as the concept of “dying with dignity,” is creeping into society and becoming increasingly sanctioned by politicians and the medical establishment.
A National Assembly committee held public hearings in 2010-11 and concluded that euthanasia, euphemistically called “medical aid in dying,” should be legal in Quebec. This conclusion came in spite of the fact that two-thirds of the citizens who made presentations to the committee, including myself and many physicians, were opposed to euthanasia.
This week, spurred by a report from a panel of legal experts recommending that terminally ill adult patients be given the right to doctor-assisted suicide, the Quebec government said it will introduce legislation to that effect.
Nowhere is euthanasia more dangerous than here in Quebec. In 2010, the Canadian Medical Association published sobering results of a national survey of Canadians’ attitudes, beliefs and experiences with their health-care system. A large majority of Canadians in every province concluded that the system is broken; but Quebec fared the worst.
As a pediatric surgeon in Montreal, I practise in an environment of constant triage, with decisions every day regarding which patient needs to go first. We do not have enough operating-room resources, intensive-care-unit beds, hospital beds, nurses — and the list goes on. And we are the lucky ones, because we treat children; more resources are available to us than to those who treat adult patients. The situation for my counterparts who treat adults is far worse.
I have experienced the Quebec health-care system over a quarter of a century, first as a medical student in the late 1980s, then as a pediatric-surgical trainee in the late 1990s, and now as a staff pediatric surgeon for the last four years. After I graduated from McGill, I went back to my native California to start my residency, carrying a tremendous pride in the education I had received and holding the environment that I had been trained in as a model for humane and compassionate health care.
Unfortunately, since I have moved back, I have come to learn through my observations as a physician and my experiences as a patient, as well as through being a friend and relative to many patients, that health care in Quebec is in deep crisis. The denial of this crisis by politicians and health-care leaders does not make it any less severe.
The humanity of the health-care system has all but disappeared over the past 25 years. The patient has come to be seen as a burden to the system, rather than the reason for its existence. The resource limitations and senseless governmental macromanagement have destroyed the morale of many who are entrusted to take care of the most vulnerable. The voices of those who want to raise awareness of this decay are often drowned, rather than listened to. Encouraging stories of truly patient- and family-centred care are now the exception, not the rule. Is this the type of environment in which we should introduce assisted suicide?
Imagine a patient in his or her final days in such a resource-limited, highly depersonalized system. The patient is requiring large amounts of resources to sustain life. His or her physicians and nurses know that death is imminent, and that it can be hastened by a lethal injection, allowing resources to go to patients who are seen as more worthy. How much dignity will that patient have if he or she chooses to cling to life?
Is there a moral dimension to legalized killing? The three guiding principles of medicine are to do no harm, to support and sustain life, and to relieve suffering. It can be argued that legalized euthanasia is consistent with that third principle: relief of suffering. That would be true if there were no alternatives to relieve suffering. But there are, and Quebec has been a leader in this field through the work of palliative-care pioneers like Dr. Balfour Mount and the many disciples who followed him. Palliative care is now available in the home and the hospice, allowing people to die with dignity in the presence of their families and loved ones. Pain medicine has matured into a specialty of its own, and billions of dollars have been invested into finding new treatments and methods to relieve pain and suffering. The armamentarium available to physicians has grown exponentially, and new medical journals are now exclusively dedicated to pain management and palliative care. When pain becomes an argument for ending life, it is the pain that must be killed, not the patient. Legalizing assisted suicide due to poorly treated or untreated pain is no different than legalizing assisted suicide due to poorly treated or untreated depression. It is no coincidence that Dr. Mount, as well as most of his colleagues in palliative care, stand firmly against euthanasia.
As a pediatric surgeon, I am particularly concerned about the fate of children under legalized euthanasia. In Quebec, the age of consent is 14 — the youngest in North America. Will teenagers with terminal cancer or other diseases with a poor prognosis be able to choose to end their lives? Quebec has the highest elective-abortion rate in North America, and one of the highest in the Western world, despite the wide availability of birth control and sex education. It also has one of the highest pregnancy-termination rates for fetuses with congenital defects. Many of these defects are completely treatable, and are associated with excellent prognosis. It is legal in Quebec to terminate a pregnancy, even in the last trimester, when a congenital anomaly is identified. The fetus, who at that point may very well survive birth, is first killed and then delivered. What if parents discover these anomalies after birth, as sometimes occurs? Will they have the legal right to end their newborn’s life?
The slippery slope is closer than we think. We only have to look at the model the Quebec government is using for its policies on euthanasia: Belgium. Recently Dr. Catherine Dopchie, a Belgian oncologist and director of a palliative-care unit, visited Quebec and spoke to large audiences in Montreal and Quebec City. She described the Pandora’s box that was opened when euthanasia was legalized in Belgium 10 years ago. Out of fear of uncontrolled pain, many patients, their families and physicians don’t even attempt palliative care, and rush toward physician-inflicted death instead, she reported. The field of palliative care is thus compromised, its practitioners having to fight to propose their services to patients before they jump onto the euthanasia bandwagon. A choice for euthanasia becomes the “courageous” thing to do, and subtle or not-so-subtle coercion to make that choice is omnipresent among the elderly and terminally ill, Dr. Dopchie said. What was originally proposed as a solution for extreme cases has become a well-marketed “therapeutic option.”
After her departure from Montreal, we learned that doctors at Brussels University Hospital had euthanized twin brothers, 45 years old, who said they wanted to die because they had been told they were soon to go blind.
The consideration of euthanasia by a society that cannot provide adequate care to its most vulnerable members should be seen as an indictment of that society. Euthanasia is the easier choice for society to make. Mending a broken health-care system that often does not dignify life, long before its end, is the more difficult choice, the one that requires honesty and leadership.
Even with the most advanced medical care, we can still cure occasionally but comfort always. I do not want to practise in a health-care system where we kill occasionally and comfort rarely. For that reason, I have joined other Quebec physicians in a “total refusal of euthanasia” position. You can find out more about our position at caringalways.com.
Under the guise of promoting our rights and freedoms, the Barreau du Québec is endorsing the culture of death.
The video by the body responsible for overseeing professional legal practice in the province - Le Barreau du Québec, shows a young woman upset with the positive results of a pregnancy test. The words "abortion rights" appear at the end of the segment.
Later on in the thirty second clip destined for television audiences, the video shows a bedroom setting in which an elderly weakened man and his family grieving over his diminishing health. The caption "dying with dignity" fades in.
As an astute commentator wondered whether (and how many of) the Barreau's membership was consulted about the views aired in this add.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is launching a project aimed responsible health care - Declaration of Hope.
EPC Executive Director Alex Schadenberg writes that "... the Declaration of HOPE (is) to convince political leaders that Canadians want positive responses to difficult life conditions, not euthanasia or assisted suicide."
Please sign the Declaration of HOPE and forward the link to the Declaration of HOPE to all of your friends and contacts.
An open letter to all Canadian Parliamentarians written by the EPC may be found here.