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Opinion Mar 12, 2020 2:00 PM EST

If Canada can't define 'human being,' it can't be trusted with euthanasia

A government with laws that aren’t even medically or morally accurate about something as fundamental as who is a human being can’t be trusted to put up “safeguards” for assisted dying.

If Canada can't define 'human being,' it can't be trusted with euthanasia
Georgi Boorman Washington, US

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

By now, anyone who dismisses concerns about euthanasia as “slippery slope arguments” should be laughed out of polite society. Bill C-7, the Canadian legislature’s answer to aligning the Medical Aid in Dying law (Bill C-14) with the The Supreme Court's Carter v. Canada decision, is exactly what critics of euthanasia expect: an expansion of the law, even past what was required by the Court in some aspects. We expect it because we’ve seen euthanasia expand, in both the letter of the law and in practice, in every other country that’s legalized killing its own citizens.

Bill C-7 goes beyond allowing people who aren’t terminally ill to be eligible for euthanasia, as the Court specified. It reduces the number of witnesses to consent required, and allows the doctor administering euthanasia to be a witness. It waives the 10-day waiting period for people whose death is “reasonably foreseeable,” and allows for “advanced consent,” by which a patient can consent ahead of time in writing before they lose the capacity to affirmatively consent to leaving the mortal realm.

Yet the Flanders region of Belgium has been known for years now to euthanize literally thousands of patients, many of them unable to consent. A 74-year old woman with Alzeihmers in the Netherlands was restrained by her own family so the doctor could execute her, despite her will stating she wanted to be euthanized “whenever she thought” the time was right.

As for C-7’s explicit exception for mental illness, it won’t last for long. Bill C-14, which legalized euthanasia in 2016, explicitly stated that “enduring physical or psychological suffering” due to a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” was a valid reason.

For those who doubt mental illness alone will soon become a qualifier, euthanasia for depression, and even Aspbergers, is not infrequent in Belgium. It happens in the Netherlands, too.

But surely assisted suicide will be restricted to those few who are suffering unbearably and won’t be a social contagion, right? About 4.5% of Dutch people die by euthanasia, and the number has climbed year over year in Oregon and Canada, too, where it’s gone from 510 per 6 months to 2600 per 6 months in three short years, excluding Quebec and three other reporting areas.

The evidence that assisted suicide laws are both slippery slopes and rife with abuse is abundant. But you shouldn’t be surprised that the government gets death so wrong when its laws don’t even start with an accurate understanding of what a human life is, much less that it is sacred.

Just before the section of Criminal Code pertaining to assisted suicide (Section 241) is a short section on infanticide. It reads, “Every one who causes the death, in the act of birth, of any child that has not become a human being, in such a manner that, if the child were a human being, he would be guilty of murder, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life."

People with a somewhat functional moral compass understand that dehumanization is evil. Yet here you have the Canadian criminal code embarrassingly defining a child being born as not yet a human being.

We experience this kind of tortured logic in the US, too, where some of the most permissive abortion laws in the world have sent the message that even separate, non-consenting human lives who inconvenience you (particularly if they are disabled) can simply be thrown in the trash. Canada, of course, doesn’t have an official law restricting abortion at all.

The culture in both countries has already accepted that human life in itself, especially in its most fragile and vulnerable states, isn’t necessarily worthy or dignified enough to warrant legal protection. If you believe that about the beginning of life, why wouldn’t you accept it at the other end as well, or when people are just too “checked out,” insane or miserable to really be a functioning member of society, to be “dignified?”

The culture of death advanced by the likes of bill C-7 is built on inherently eugenic and dehumanizing practices aimed at those who are perceived as burdens or unworthy of life, from the baby the size of a walnut to the octogenarian with severe dementia.

As I’ve written before on the connection between euthanasia and abortion, “Encouraging death at one end of life is nearly always followed by promoting death near the other end. Once you dispense with the idea that all human life is precious, you’ve gone most of the distance toward a culture that is ableist, suicidal, and eventually utilitarian to the point of purposefully seeking the elimination of the ‘burdens on society.’”

A government with laws that aren’t even medically or morally accurate about something as fundamental as who is a human being can’t be trusted to put up “safeguards” for assisted dying. Killing humans is definitively not a safe activity. It’s not something that can be protected from abuse because it is fundamentally abusive of the sanctity of life.

If Canadian lawmakers want to start rebuilding a just and equitable society, they should start with getting the definition of humanity right.

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