uOttawa Students For Life: Call to Action on Assisted Suicide

This post was written for uOttawa Students For Life by uOttawa Students For Life. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

From NCLN:

Action Needed: BC Court Strikes Down Assisted-Suicide Ban

On Friday June 15th, the B.C. Supreme Court passed judgment on the Carter v. Canada Case. As Will Johnston, Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of B.C., stated in a National Post opinion piece, the decision “purports to create constitutional immunity for those who provide assistance to those seeking to kill themselves — a judgment that stands at odds with the Supreme Court of Canada’s Rodriguez ruling in 1993. …. Current law will stand for at least a year (the sole exception being the plaintiff in this case, 64-year-old ALS patient Gloria Taylor)”.

Allowing euthanasia and assisted suicide in our country directly threatens the lives of people with disabilities as well other vulnerable people in our society, and opens up further avenues for elder abuse.

A recent press release from the Canadian Association for Community Living concerning the Carter case decision stated, “Our concern, therefore, is that rather than advancing equality rights for Canadians with disabilities, this ruling will have quite the opposite effect. We fear that by embedding in Canadian law the message that some forms of human life are less worth living, the historic disadvantages faced by Canadians with disabilities that the equality rights provisions of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms were to address, will only be more deeply entrenched.”

We need you to raise awareness about the harms of legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide:
Sign this petition to the Attorney General of Canada, requesting that he adopts the strongest possible opposition to the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia
Read these talking points provided by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, and send letters to your local media outlets outlining your opposition to the court’s ruling as it is a recipe for elder abuse, and creates a slippery slope which discriminates against people with disabilities and leaves them at risk
Contact the Justice Minister, the Honourable Robert Nicholson, asking him to stay the Carter decision and appeal it to the BC Court of Appeal
Become educated on this issue by checking out some of these articles and resources.

We hope you will do all you can to make your voice known in this matter. Our society has ultimately failed if our solution to problems is to eliminate the sufferer, rather than find measures to alleviate their suffering.

“What does it mean to give informed consent to one’s own death?
Is it meaningful to say that we can appreciate and understand the nature and consequences of that decision, when that decision means that we will no longer be here?
Isn’t autonomy about the right to non-interference, in the name of protecting one’s integrity, not undermining it?
Doesn’t the right to self-determination only find meaning because we wish to lay claim to our future?”
~Michael Bach, Executive Vice-President,
Canadian Association for Community Living

Also, check out the personal, thought-provoking piece by NCLN’s Executive Director, a uOSFL alumnus.

Read the comments at the uOttawa Students For Life website.

My Aunt’s Killer Should Not Be an Excuse to Kill

By Rebecca Richmond, NCLN Executive Director

ALS often come up when euthanasia and assisted suicide are discussed. The disease seems to be the poster child for the ‘right to die’ movement, and has been a part of major court cases including Gloria Taylor’s involvement in the recent Carter case and the 1993 Supreme Court case of Sue Rodriguez.

“Don’t you know about ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease?” I’ve been asked by those who support assisted suicide. “How would you feel if it was your loved one dying of ALS? Do you know what the disease does?”

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis? Yes, I do actually.

Several years ago my dad’s sister – my aunt and godmother – was diagnosed with the degenerative motor neuron disease that had also killed her grandmother many years before. Most patients only live between 3-5 years, but my aunt deteriorated quickly and we lost her on September 29, 2009 – only 13 months after diagnosis.

Even before the disease was officially diagnosed, she had to stop teaching due to problems with balance and standing. She called it ‘getting tippy’. By the time the disease had been officially diagnosed later that August, her mobility had been severely curtailed and the disease was already beginning to affect her speech. She warned my dad to let us kids know that if we picked up the phone and heard a drunk person on the other end, it was just their aunt.

Her approach to the disease mirrored her approach to life: blunt and practical. She quickly mobilized her husband and friends to rearrange the house for her so she had access to her scrapbooking materials and computer, and had a chair lift put in to help her get up and down the stairs. Legal matters were taken care of soon after the diagnosis as well.  There was never any “Why me?” questions; she just hunkered down to handle life as it was presented to her. It was her way of doing things.

Despite living in a small farming community in Saskatchewan, she was able to get the assistance she needed to live at home for several months. Her condition worsened rapidly – much too rapidly – and despite the heroic efforts of my uncle and her home care providers, she had to be admitted to a palliative care unit in a nearby small town hospital early the next spring where she remained until her death in the fall. Her memorial service was held at the community hall to accommodate the crowd of friends, colleagues, family and former students from decades of teaching who came to pay their respects.

ALS is a ghastly disease. My aunt quickly lost her independence, and became reliant on others for the basics that we take for granted. She soon lost her ability to speak, and near the end of her life it was almost impossible for her to communicate. Through it all, her husband and the medical team continued to lavish their love and care on her to alleviate her pain and suffering as much as possible until she died. She was an individual with dignity, and was treated with dignity, despite all the indignities the disease subjected her to.

I hesitated before I began to write, I hesitated before I sent it to my dad to look over, and I hesitated before I posted it. I do not want anyone to misinterpret my meaning. I am not glorifying my aunt’s suffering nor am I trying to make her the new poster child of our movement. My aunt would not be anyone’s poster child, thanks very much. My point is this: I am aware that ALS has a very human face to it. But it is precisely that humanity, and the humanity of all the vulnerable, that puts me firmly against euthanasia and assisted suicide. I hate the fact that my aunt’s killer is being used as an excuse to allow killing. I shudder to think how the medical system would have treated my aunt if euthanasia and assisted suicide was a part of the Canadian health care system. Would they have seen her as a financial burden to the system? Would they have done a cost-benefit analysis on her life? Would her ability to function have come to define her value?

And while Gloria Taylor and Sue Rodriguez gave a face to the euthanasia and assisted suicide movement in Canada, their stories are not the only stories. Legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia endangers our seniors, our friends and family with special needs and those suffering from diseases. These stories and our stories matter too.

I certainly wish my aunt hadn’t suffered or died, especially from such a horrific disease. I would like to see more research done on currently incurable diseases like ALS. I would like to see palliative care and pain relief improve. But creating a right to kill will not make that happen, nor is killing an acceptable way to ‘alleviate’ suffering. Instead, by allowing doctors to kill the sufferers, it only endangers the lives of all the vulnerable.

For more information and analysis on the Carter Case and the issue in general, please visit our Euthanasia Resource page.

Author’s note: Special thanks to my father for his contributions to this piece and for his encouragement.

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A Sad Decision Made in BC Courts

Josie Wichrowski is a summer intern with NCLN in our Western Office.  On Friday she was present at the B.C. Supreme Court for the ruling on the Carter Case.  The following is her reflection on the decision.

By Josie Wichrowski, NCLN Summer Intern

I was present at the BC Supreme Court yesterday where the decision was made to make an exception to the law, giving Gloria Taylor the right to be euthanized in Canada; this is the first step to legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada.

It was a particularly tense and important moment to be a part of and, whether you were present or not, you are all impacted by the outcome of the case. If this decision is upheld in the Supreme Court and sent to parliament, it will become a part of our constitutional law and it will affect all Canadians.

As a pro-life student who works hard to show my peers that all human life has value, I am appalled by this decision. On campus we want to instill life-affirming values amongst the future doctors, teachers, politicians, and other professionals of our country; but while we are working hard to affirm these values, our very own B.C. Court has just made a judgement that undermines them.

If a “right” to euthanasia and assisted suicide become law, it will only pave the way for more injustices to occur such as increased rates of suicide among those struggling with depression as well as seniors being pressured to accept euthanasia to avoid being a burden to their families. Unfortunately senior abuse is a reality that already happens in Canada, and euthanasia and assisted suicide would only worsen this. Such examples have been documented in jurisdictions such as Oregon and the Netherlands where assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal.

Is this what we want Canada to become, a country where we permit people to abuse others who are vulnerable and kill those in pain? The solution to suffering is not to eliminate the sufferer, but rather to alleviate the individual’s suffering.

Dr. Will Johnston, chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) and Dr. Margaret Cottle, vice-president, both spoke to media officials and conveyed how deeply disappointed they were in the court’s decision.

Dr. Cottle is a practicing palliative care physician in Vancouver and said if this law is drafted, it will be nearly impossible to prevent other forms of assisted suicide. As she stated, in her profession, “Only 30% of Canadian patients have access to palliative care. Whereas 70% of Canadians don’t…Are we therefore going to go to the drastic position of killing people?” She concludes, “This is a sad day in Canada and for my profession.”

The next question to ask is, is this decision binding for the rest of Canada? It certainly creates a dangerous precedent. What we do know is that an appeal must be made to the Court, and we need to get involved and do what we can to let our fellow Canadians know that we oppose the BC Supreme Court’s Decision. Please write a letter today to your local newspaper and media outlets, outlining your opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide, and the many harms that will result if these are legalized. For talking points, visit http://www.epcbc.ca/p/talking-points_06.html

Please contact Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, asking him to stay the Carter decision and appeal it to the BC Court of Appeal: mcu@justice.gc.ca.

Your voice is crucial to overturning this decision, as we show Canadians and politicians the abuses that would result. We must encourage the EPC as they work to appeal this motion, and discourage Parliament from crafting any law that would support euthanasia and/or assisted suicide. Such a law would have implications on all of us when we are faced with end of life decisions, both for ourselves and those we care for. It is at these moments when people are most vulnerable that we must not be making judgments on whether their life is worth living, but rather be affirming their value and right to life.

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