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Canada facilitates murder of the helpless and ill

Canada has recently legalized "assisted suicide," even carried out by family members, friends, or anybody, using prescribed drugs.

Here's how it works. You induce someone 18 or older to ask for a lethal prescription on the grounds that he has a "grievous and irremediable condition." (Notice that we've abandoned even the pretense that the person is actually dying. Any grievous and irremediable condition will do.) He asks for it from a medical practitioner. You find two medical practitioners willing to certify that the person meets the criteria. This can't be too hard, because if someone you approach has conscientious objections he has to give you a referral to someone who will comply, known as an "effective referral."

Allegedly, the medical practitioners are supposed to confirm that the request wasn't made as the result of "external pressure," but given that they can lose their jobs and be in violation of the law if they don't provide aid in dying or an effective referral for it, it's not difficult to see where the incentives fall as far as certifying that the person isn't under "external pressure."

(One sweet little clause in the law says that someone else can even sign the request for the suicide pills if the victim is unable to sign! Yes, yes, the signature is supposed to be witnessed by witnesses without a conflict of interest, but still.)

Once the drugs are prescribed, that's it. Anyone else can help administer the drugs, behind closed doors, without supervision or oversight. The medical people are supposed to tell the victim (er, the person who "requests aid in dying") that he can withdraw his request later, but there is no mechanism at all for making sure that this is honored. For example, if the victim later doesn't want to take the pills and a beneficiary of the victim's will puts a gun to his head and says, "Take the pills," then lies and says that the person took them voluntarily, there will be no way to tell this and no investigation or prosecution.

In fact, the law expressly states that even if it turns out that the person didn't want to die and if someone "assisted" the victim in taking the pill under a "reasonable but mistaken belief" that the person wanted to die, the "assistant" is exempt from prosecution.

(2) No person is a party to culpable homicide if they do anything for the purpose of aiding a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to provide a person with medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.‍2.

(3) For greater certainty, the exemption set out in subsection (1) or (2) applies even if the person invoking it has a reasonable but mistaken belief about any fact that is an element of the exemption.

How in the world it is decided that the "assistant" had a "reasonable" belief that the victim wanted to die at that particular moment is left unspecified, but my guess is that the original paperwork with the medical people that showed the person allegedly voluntarily requesting the drugs will be considered sufficient. What happened after that would be nobody's business to inquire.

To be clear: It's wrong to "help" people kill themselves even if they really want to kill themselves. But the murder of people who definitely don't want to kill themselves is wrong in a way that even the pro-death left usually recognizes, which is why they are always going on and on about "choice." This law is an outright invitation to outright murder of your inconvenient, disabled relatives and friends, as should be evident to anyone with a few legal brain cells. Wesley J. Smith talks about the DeLury case and how it would have been a perfect situation for the application of this law.

Choice devours itself. Every time. Make death your god, and death will make sure that a little thing like "choice" doesn't get in the way. I predict there will be plenty of outright murders under this new law in Canada.

Comments (16)

George Parkin Grant, the most important Canadian philosopher of the twentieth century, a devout Anglican and a conservative of older British/Canadian Tory school, devoted the last two essays in his last published book, Technology and Justice, to a defence of human life against abortion and euthanasia. This was published in 1986, two years before he died. The debate had already been underway in the schools and churches for years, and this was not the first time he had addressed the issue. A couple of years later, the first serious attempt at a bill to legalize euthanasia introduced in Parliament. There were several other attempts that for one reason or another failed.

In February of last year - as I discussed at the time here: http://thronealtarliberty.blogspot.ca/2015/02/yet-another-big-leap-downwards.html - the Supreme Court of Canada "legalized" assisted suicide in the sense that it upheld the Charter challenge of Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor against the existing laws, giving Parliament twelve months to amend the Criminal Code to make exceptions, for doctor assisted suicides, in certain cases. Such a bill had already been tabled by then-Conservative MP Steven Fletcher who had foreseen the Supreme Court's decision and wanted to avoid the situation where there was no law on the books whatsoever. The Conservatives were defeated in last fall's election before Fletcher's bill could pass, and now the Liberals are attempting to pass a new bill. Theirs will almost certainly be much broader in the kind of assisted suicides allowed for than Fletcher's would have been.

Something similar had happened with abortion. Abortion had been illegal under all circumstances in Canada until 1969, when Pierre Trudeau's government amended the Criminal Code to allow for abortion in limited circumstances - when three doctors could attest to the mother's life being in danger. Then in 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada in Morganthaler v. The Queen struck down all laws against abortion, inviting Parliament to draft new ones. The Mulroney Conservative, then in power, attempted to do so, but failed, and nobody has attempted since.

This sort of thing was a direct result of the passing of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, which turned our Supreme Court into an instrument of social and cultural revolution, of the type your Supreme Court had been since at least the 1960s.

The best Canadian commentator to read on this is Andrew Coyne.

Note that the SCC upheld the law against "assisted suicide" in the 1993 case Rodriguez v British Columbia (AG). In 2015 it changed its mind. Of course, this latter decision will be treated as sacrosanct.

I agree with Gerry Neal about the effect of the Charter, but disagree about Fletcher's bill. He clearly believes in "assisted suicide", as do many Conservatives. All the parties have factions of varying size that either support or oppose the new bill. That's why there will be a free vote in the Commons. It's also why it was never an issue in the election in October.

The silver lining, I suppose, is that since the decision in Carter depended on section 7 of the Charter, the Notwithstanding Clause could be invoked by a future gov't to reinstate the prohibition.

Don't misunderstand me with regards to Fletcher's bill. I was not impressed with it, and argued here: http://thronealtarliberty.blogspot.ca/2015/02/steven-fletcher-byfields-and-failure-of.html that it was yet more evidence that the present Conservative Party had betrayed its roots and completely capitulated on "social conservative" issues. My point was that the Liberals are likely to go even further in what will be allowed. As their modus operandi is to forbid what ought not to be forbidden and to allow what should not be allowed, that is a fairly safe assumption, I would say.

Correct me if I'm wrong. I've been following this for a while, too. I believe the "notwithstanding" clause is only a delaying tactic, correct? That is, the invocation of such a clause exempts the legislature from responding to a court's ruling for some limited period of time (a year, I think?). Moreover (again, subject to correction), if/when the bill that Wesley J. Smith is documenting and that I am writing about is passed, the notwithstanding clause is no longer the first order of business, since assisted suicide will have at that point been enshrined *in existing legislation*. A future govt. would have to repeal that legislation and then find a way to deal with the subsequent Court temper tantrums.

By the way, I'm not quite sure why you are both talking about what the liberal government is likely to do or would do. The full text of the law is available at one of the links provided in my post! This is no longer in the realm of hypotheticals. We _know_ what legislation they are trying to pass.

The notwithstanding clause requires that the legislation it is applied to sunset within five years. The legislation can be passed again an indefinite number of times. However, you are correct that once this legislation passes, it would have to be repealed in order to get rid of the allowances for doctor assisted suicide. What's more, to prevent the Supreme Court from striking such legislation down, the Charter would have to be either revoked or amended, in either case a much more difficult process than passing a bill.

I think what you're suggesting is that legislation _continuing to prohibit_ all assisted suicide could be passed using the notwithstanding clause (to allow it to be in place for five years regardless of the court decision) but would then have to be re-passed every five years, correct?

That sounds like a good idea, but I gather it is highly unlikely to be done.

That is correct, Lydia.

It is theoretically possible, but it would require that a government committed to the prohibition of assisted suicide be in power every time the old legislation expires. Unfortunately, unless social conservatives regain control of Conservative Party policy - which they have not had since prior to Stephen Harper's leadership - and the Conservatives regain power and keep it perpetually, there is no chance of that happening. While in theory it would be easier to accomplish than amending or scrapping the Charter, in actuality it is just as difficult.

By the way, I'm not quite sure why you are both talking about what the liberal government is likely to do or would do. The full text of the law is available at one of the links provided in my post! This is no longer in the realm of hypotheticals. We _know_ what legislation they are trying to pass.

There are already complaints from the usual suspects that the law does not go far enough and in fact would still be in violation of the Charter per the court's recent ruling. Also, the bill does not go as far as a parliamentary committee suggested it should. It did not take all of the committee's recommendations. (The committee may have been deliberately allowing the gov't to appear "moderate".) That said, the Liberal gov't has made it pretty clear that it has no objection in principle to broadening the law in the future. So, the legislation written is quite bad, but it will probably be worse in the coming years. Again, Andrew Coyne (not a conservative save in a very loose sense) has been the most perspicacious of our major commentators on this file.

It did not take all of the committee's recommendations.

I'm trying to imagine...

Can you specify? It's already so broad (for example, not requiring even that the person have a fatal disease or be certified to be dying) that it will be one of the broadest laws in the world on the books. And the requirement of "effective referral," if I recall correctly, in its trampling on conscience of medical practitioners, goes farther even than the law in Holland or Belgium, which is saying a great deal.

Can someone please tell me why anyone should imagine that a doctor MUST refer you to anywhere, for any reason?

What I mean is: why can't you do your own damn homework and find the same doctor that the referring doctor could send you to? In what way does my going to Dr. A cause it to be Dr. A's job to tell me "That's not a service I do, but I know you can get Dr. B to provide that service"? If I go to my dermatologist and ask for brain surgery, does he have to provide me with an "effective referral" to a brain surgeon? Why? He isn't in the business of referrals, he is in the business of skin medicine.

I agree, Tony.

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that it is an exceptionless rule that if you find a law that requires an effective referral there is some kind of ideological war going on in the jurisdiction and the order for an effective referral is an attempt to weight the scales of that ideological in favor of providers of the service. It's an attempt to prevent

a) a "conspiracy" of non-cooperation where all the medical personnel in the jurisdiction just jointly refuse to provide the service, so its legality becomes a dead letter and

b) the ostracism by other medical professionals of those who provide the service.

It attempts to prevent a in a social and psychological way: "Oh, heck, if I have to go out and find somebody in this state/country who will do x, there's no point in my standing on conscientious objections to doing it myself." It attempts to prevent b by the sheer fact that a _referral_ is a collegial recognition of the other doctor. If you think service x is distasteful or morally wrong, your inclination as a doctor would be to ignore and cold-shoulder other doctors who do x. But if you're doing a referral you are ipso facto not treating that other doctor as a pariah. A referral has a definite professional meaning.

Now, the prevention of a is sort of interesting. What if _in fact_ all of the doctors, nurses, etc., within the entire jurisdiction had a conscientious objection to doing x or considered themselves not competent to do x (and hence had a second-order conscientious objection on the grounds that it would be unprofessional to do something they aren't competent to do)? How then does the requirement for an effective referral even work?! "Ought" implies "can." What if the nearest person who is willing to do the deed is literally out of the country?

It seems to me that a really determined professional conspiracy could make it pretty much impossible to enforce such a law.

But there's a kind of semi-bluff going on combined with a prisoner's dilemma. No one really knows what will happen if you pretend to provide an "effective referral" which requires the patient to travel a thousand miles to receive the service! Will you get fined? Lose your medical license? And given those pressures and the fact that there is rarely such a unified perspective among medical professionals in any modern political jurisdiction that might pass such a law, there will almost always be some doctors who will do the deed within a "reasonable" distance, which in turn means that all the other doctors within a certain radius of that person are going to be required, on pain of punishment, to funnel business his way. Opening it up to physicians' assistants (as this law is likely to do) only makes the social dynamic more effective by opening up more possibilities for people to whom an "effective referral" might be made.

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that it is an exceptionless rule that if you find a law that requires an effective referral there is some kind of ideological war going on in the jurisdiction and the order for an effective referral is an attempt to weight the scales of that ideological in favor of providers of the service. It's an attempt to prevent

Right. It is the same coin as the ideological act of turning "I personally don't condone homosexual behavior" into a criminal act of homophobia. Not only must you PERMIT evil, you must CONDONE evil, or you are guilty of imposing your point of view on others. It is making you responsible for someone else's being able to move forward in their evil acts. For the doctor, it is co-opting his medical practice into promoting someone else's behavior. Notice, though, that "co-opting" for evil cannot, by definition, be severed from "cooperation" with evil. I am sure this is not at all lost on the Powers behind the ideological drive.

It did not take all of the committee's recommendations.

Let me get this straight: the "committee's recommendations" were, actually, "recommendations", right? In other words, suggestions? They were things that the committee was asking Parliament to consider, right? And, when Parliament considers them, and accepts 8 but rejects 2 out of 10, this is because Parliament reflected on the whole group and found 2 less worthy than the others, by an act of deliberation and judgment? Because that's Parliament's authoritative role, to deliberate and decide? Because some recommendations might not always be in the country's best interests, ultimately. Because the committee is not the legislature. Ah, well, what do I know, Canada isn't the US, after all.

The Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying gave the gov't 21 recommendations in its final report on 24 February. Yes, Tony, these are mere recommendations. I have heard a couple of commentators suggest that the Liberals may have steered the committee into being more expansive than the court ruling seems to require in order that the Liberals' bill could appear moderate in comparison. I say "seems to require", since there is debate as to what it actually requires and, of course, it is not entirely coherent. In fact, in a hearing on an extension to the grace period, the judges didn't even seem to agree on what their ruling meant. (The ruling was not to come into effect for one year, but the Liberals asked the court to give them a six-month extension on top of that, which it did.)

The committee recommended that "assisted dying" be allowed to minors within three years (from now). The legislation says nothing about minors. But give it time. The committee recommended allowing advance directives for those likely to lose competence in the future. The legislation does not allow it. The committee recommended leaving the waiting period up to the physician. The legislation imposes a time period (I can't remember what off the top of my head). The committee recommended allowing those with severe "mental suffering" access to "assisted dying", but the legislation only allows for those whose death is "reasonably foreseeable".

The "reasonably foreseeable" language is in the prologue but not in the actual criteria. (Not to mention that everyone's death is reasonably foreseeable, so even as a criterion that would be meaningless as a restriction.)


The only actual criterion of that kind is "grievous and irremediable condition." I take that to mean that mental suffering is included, though not explicitly.

"Reasonably foreseeable" is also found under the definition of "Grievous and irremediable medical condition" in the act.

And here is the committee report:


Its second recommendation is that "medical assistance in dying be available to individuals with terminal and non-terminal grievous and irremediable medical conditions". I think it's clear that the actual legislation attempts to restrict "aid in dying" to terminal cases. Of course, as you and many others have pointed out, the term "reasonably foreseeable" is practically meaningless.

I think it's clear that the actual legislation attempts to restrict "aid in dying" to terminal cases.

Okay, thanks, I now see the "reasonably foreseeable" language in the definition of "grievous and irremediable, but... I guess I would question whether this attempts to restrict assisted suicide to "terminal" cases, especially since the definition _explicitly_ states that no prognosis has to be made concerning how much longer they have to live. In all previous legislation (e.g., Oregon's) that makes any credible pretense to _restricting_ assisted suicide to cases that the ordinary man would regard as "terminal," some prognosis has to be made. (Six months is a typical number.)

This definition could include people who would live for many, many years and for whom it would be highly ambiguous as to what, precisely, they died of. For example, I think that plausibly a patient in the early stages of Alzheimer's would qualify, because complications arising from Alzheimer's generally result in the person's eventual death. A great many conditions are such that _indirectly_ you may very well die of their effects. For example, if you are bed-ridden you are more likely to get a urinary tract infection or some other infection.

I would interpret this rather as an attempt to move _away_ from restricting assisted suicide to patients who are terminal.

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