by Lighthouse News
The deaths of an elderly couple in Toronto late last month has raised serious questions over how far Canada’s legal and medical system has gone to accommodate euthanasia, more euphemistically called, “Medical Assistance in Dying” (MAiD).
On March 27th, George and Shirley Brickenden were euthanized as they lay side-by-side in their bed at a Toronto-area retirement home. Mr. and Mrs. Brickenden were both in their 90s. Three of their children sat at the foot of their bed while two doctors simultaneously administered the lethal injections that killed them.
The Brickendens had been married for almost 73 years, and made a deliberate decision that they wanted to die together, at the same time.
The case raises questions about the ethical underpinnings of MAiD in the wake of the so-called “Carter case” which legalized euthanasia in early 2015.
ARPA’s Director of Law and Policy, André Schutten, says the case clearly illustrates how far the medical system has already moved on the issue since Carter was argued before the Supreme Court some two years ago. “At that time,” Schutten says, “the arguments in favour of euthanasia and assisted suicide included some very strong restrictions on the practice. Even Joseph Arvay, the lead lawyer for the pro-euthanasia side in Carter, proposed that some stringent conditions be attached to the practice. He told the Supreme Court that anyone asking for assisted suicide ‘has to be an adult, has to be competent, has to be voluntary, has to be fully informed, has to have a medical condition that is irremediable and the suffering has to be intolerable to that person.’”
However, Schutten says, the Brickendens were clearly not suffering intolerably, and didn’t appear to have any kind of “irremediable medical condition.”
“This begs the question,” Schutten says, “What has changed? How did we go from providing euthanasia only to people who are suffering intolerably to simply killing a relatively-healthy elderly couple out of some kind of romanticised notion that it would be ‘nice’ if they could die together?”
The Brickenden’s case has attracted international attention. In the United States, Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, devoted almost an entire episode of his “Briefing” podcast to the Brickenden story last week. (You can hear the podcast here. Lighthouse News also featured a shorter, edited version of Mohler’s comments this week.) Mohler said the case shows a clear clash of worldviews. The case, he explained, “comes down to whether or not you see the story of George and Shirley Brickenden as a beautiful love story – lived out to their own chosen beautiful end – or if it is instead the victory of the culture of death over the sanctity of human life.
“When you undermine (that sanctity) and redefine humanity, you have to do so most importantly at the margins of life,” he said. “You have to do so at the beginning and end of life, where the greatest vulnerabilities amongst human beings are found.” Which is why, Mohler said, there are major parallels between the twin discussions about euthanasia and abortion.
You can listen to the full interview with André as featured on our Lighthouse News broadcast here.