Bill-52 (Euthanasia) Debate Continues

Debate around Québec’s Bill-52 (Euthanasia), introduced by the Parti Québécois, continues. For background information, read a previous entry.

Professor Margaret Somerville, a leading expert and founding Director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, recently wrote an opinion editorial in The Globe and Mail: Why euthanasia and assisted suicide must remain legally prohibited.” She writes extensively on the lesser debated “life concepts,” and references the Carter et al. v Canada case out of the British Columbia Supreme Court, in which the Supreme Court of Canada has since granted leave. She concludes:

Where we disagree in the euthanasia debate is what honouring respect for human life requires. Those who equate loss of independence with loss of dignity believe that what they perceive as a quality of life not worth living justifies euthanasia. Those who see all humans as having dignity just because they are human, believe that respect for life requires that we do not intentionally kill another human being or help them to kill themselves, which means that euthanasia and assisted suicide must remain legally prohibited.

Other opinion pieces, including Margaret Wente’s “Assisted suicide — what could possibly go wrong?” have also weighed in. She mentions Canadian support of the right-to-die is strong, but also voices concerns about the liberalism the laws can sometimes take, and have taken, in countries such as Belgium. If Bill 52 passes the National Assembly the end of February 2014, prior to an expected provincial election, the euthanasia law would be the most liberal in all of North America.

Wente mentions the original intent of euthanasia laws in progressive countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium was for “unbearable suffering and incurable illness,” but since then many physicians “are now killing people they have barely met,” including patients who suffer from physical and mental illness, such as anorexia or depression.

This month, Belgium went even further — legislating the rights of children to access euthanasia, lifting age restrictions entirely. Concerns surrounding consent and capacity remain. Though we may not all agree with various pro and anti-euthanasia arguments, Wente concludes that it’s clear “our ethical dilemmas are only beginning.”