Canadian society is more ableist, ageist and eugenic by the day. If you doubted that, doubt no more. Canadians Ian Ball and Robert Sibbald from Western University, along with Robert Truog from Harvard, recently published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine calling for organ donation from euthanasia victims. They went so far as suggesting pulling the organs from the still-alive "donor" such that removing the organs would cause the donor’s euthanasia itself. The fresher the better. The transplant surgeons thus become both the one who sustaines life for one, and the dealer of death for the other. All it takes, according to the authors, is a few simple tweaks to legislation… When euthanasia was first proposed, and quickly legalized, it was to help deal with pitiable death-bed agony. To many, this was a bad premise in itself. To others, it wasn't enough. Soon after, euthanasia included those who were suffering, but not on their death bed. Then, access included those whose death was reasonably, but vaguely defined, as foreseeable. Now, in Ontario, a hospital is already preferentially offering assisted dying rather than assisted living to its patients. This euthanasia-for-organs recommendation is well-timed. More changes are expected in December from the Council of Canadian Academies’ report to the Minister of Health, which will address assisted suicide for the mentally ill, mature minors and use of advanced directives. Only three short years ago this all would have been unthinkable. Euthanasia for organ donation is cold utilitarianism that has no place in a caring society. It’s a tyranny we saw 80 years ago in Europe. As Steve Forbes from Forbes Magazine wrote in an opinion piece “[euthanasia and] assisted suicide should be terminated themselves, they are “murderously chilling acts.” Are you still skeptical about the changes euthanasia has brought to the practice of medicine? On the heels of World Suicide Prevention Day September 10th, the College of Family Physicians published their monthly journal, with September's edition having no less than 9 articles promoting medically assisted suicide. Discriminating access to euthanasia has given way to discriminating access to help, offering suicide prevention only to some, rather than to everyone. An expectation is rising quickly that physicians discriminate, offering hope through medical help, based on a patient’s age, condition or perceived “quality of life.” If anyone feels their life is not worth living, physicians are being told they should agree. As anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, "it is the duty of society to protect the physician from such requests." Why? Because it was understood that the power to determine which lives are unworthy of living should send a chill down your spine. Especially if it’s your doctor that claims this power. Andre Picard wrote in The Globe and Mail about the embarrassing lack of palliative care in Canada - only one patient in seven has access to palliative care. I couldn’t agree more. Yet Mr. Picard failed to make the connection to the demand for euthanasia. Palliative care is time consuming and expensive. It takes the coordination of multiple players to organize a proper palliative care network for patients, particularly in rural Canada. In our era of limited health care budgets, this is a monumental task. On the flip side, government, health authorities and the media have focused so much on normalizing euthanasia that we have forgotten how to truly care for those on death's door. Killing patients should never be the go-to treatment. In his same piece, Steve Forbes wrote “Instead of working to alleviate the tribulations of the afflicted and innovating ever better ways to do this, we simply “put them out of their misery, the way we do with household pets." He echoes Somerville’s chilling warning that euthanasia will hinder the imagination and creativity required to come up with truly novel solutions for our aging population. Euthanasia went from illegal, to legal, to recommended in a few short years. How long before it will be coerced (if not already), and, finally, required, of the patient, and the doctor? The way things are going now, you had better not get sick. You may be the next one on the euthanasia chopping block.
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