UPDATE, Aug 25: The province of Ontario, in conjunction with the other provinces, has now also innitiated its own (very biased) survey about assisted suicide. This one takes about 15 minutes to complete and it is very important that we also share our views with this survey. https://www.ontario.ca/page/doctor-assisted-dying-and-end-life-decisions-consultation
In response to the Carter Supreme Court decision which struck down Canada’s assisted suicide laws, the Minister of Health and Minister of Justice have formed a panel to investigate options for a new law. This panel will be meeting with official stakeholders, including ARPA Canada. It is also asking for input from you – the public. Please set aside 20-30 minutes to share your thoughts and concerns with the panel by filling in their extensive online survey. The panel will share these findings with the new government, which will be drafting a new law. It is so important that the new government hears our concerns loud and clear. We are trying to make this as easy as possible by walking through the survey with you and providing some suggested responses you can share.
You can share your views with this panel in two ways. First, you can complete their online “issue book” which is a 20-30 minute survey that asks you to respond to a variety of matters pertaining to assisted suicide and euthanasia (almost all multiple-choice style). Second, you can write your own letter or submission and upload it, to be shared with the panel. Of course you are most welcome to do both! The focus of this article is on option 1.
Before Completing the “Issue Book” Survey or Uploading your Submission
- Take a moment to pray for the right words and God’s blessing on your effort.
- If you have not done so yet, consider reading ARPA’s policy report and draft law on assisted suicide, both available here. This will give you a good context of the issue, from a Christian perspective.
- Set aside 30 minutes so you can complete the full survey.
- The survey notes that its purpose is to determine how to apply the Carter decision, not whether assisted suicide or euthanasia should be legal. We may want to take issue with that but keep in mind that ARPA (and hopefully you can help!) will continue to lobby hard for the new government to try pass a law which uses the not-withstanding clause in the Charter of Rights to allow Parliament to pass a law which continues to prohibit all euthanasia and assisted suicide. Regardless of the success of that effort, it is important to still seize this opportunity to inform the panel, and thereby the new government, of our concerns.
- If you see any problems with our suggestions below, let us know – [email protected]
Part 1: Eligibility for Physician-assisted Death
- After sharing some information about yourself (nothing personal and no names) you will be asked to answer whether you agree or disagree that you or others should be able to receive physician-assisted death in a variety of circumstances. In all the circumstances you can select “1” – strongly disagree.
- You are then given an opportunity to share additional factors related to eligibility. You may want to consider sharing the following (in your own words):
- Although the Supreme Court judges may think it is OK for some people to be eligible to die, as soon as the line is crossed where some people are permitted to kill others it becomes legally and logically impossible to prevent that line from continuing to shift as more and more people demand that they also have a right to “die with dignity.”
- Look to the Netherlands and Belgium to see how their eligibility requirements have been eroding quickly. Now even infants and children can be killed.
- When the measuring line is subjective (I feel that…) it becomes impossible to stop it from changing. The only way to uphold the sanctity of human life is to prohibit all euthanasia and assisted suicide. Parliament has the legal and constitutional means to do so by invoking Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It must do so now, before the line is crossed and it becomes so difficult to go back to a standard where all human life is protected equally under the law.
Part 2: Risks for Patients, Persons with Disabilities, Mental Health, Palliative care etc.
- This section asks you to rate how concerned you are about the risk that physician-assisted dying has on a variety of people. You will likely be selecting “5” (very concerned”) for most of the options. The two exceptions will be at 60% complete and 72% complete, pertaining to mental health conditions making it more difficult to receive death and resources for physicians to facilitate requests to die.
- You then have the option of sharing additional risks. Some you may want to consider are:
- If assisted suicide or euthanasia is legalized, criminal homicide laws that aim to protect the lives of similar people are naturally weakened because it becomes difficult to prosecute when there is a reasonable doubt whether the victim actually wanted to die.
- As soon as an illness or disability becomes a sufficient reason for death, anybody who has that illness or disability now has to justify their continued existence. This comes at a time when they are likely struggling with self-worth. Society should be caring, not killing.
- There is not a jurisdiction in the world that has been able to successfully respond to the inherent risks with assisted suicide and euthanasia. In fact, peer-reviewed studies show that the number of physician-assisted deaths continue to increase in these other jurisdictions, even in the face of clear evidence that the law is not being properly followed. We would never justify any other law where innocent people have to justify their lives and risk being coerced into death. How can we justify this?
- It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. God has created humanity in His image. Although our secular society may not recognize that, it should understand that if we cross this line it becomes impossible to ground human rights. Risk comes from changing the law to say it is OK to kill.
Part 3: Safeguards
- In this section you have to rank how important the following safeguards are before someone can receive a physician assisted death. In all cases you will likely want to answer “5” (very important). If a law is passed, we want the safeguards to be as strict as possible.
- When the survey is 89% done, the first question asks whether physicians should have to refer requests for death to another physician. We recommend “1” (strongly disagree).
- The survey then asks if you cans share other safeguards. You can explain that as soon as physician assisted death is an option, safeguards are impossible to sufficiently protect vulnerable people. However, some additional safeguards that will help mitigate the harm include:
- Require a judicial review every three years of all the assisted suicide deaths. If the findings show that the law is not being followed there must be an immediate moratorium of all assisted deaths as it is clear that the law is not adequate in preventing harm. This must not be lifted until the law and regulatory regime is amended to prevent this from happening again.
- Creation of an assisted suicide agency that reports to the Minister of Justice and has the mandate of monitoring assisted suicide deaths to make sure the law is being strictly followed.
- The law must explicitly preclude euthanasia – the Carter decision is vague about whether euthanasia is included. Prohibiting euthanasia will go a long way to preventing harm to vulnerable people.
- Deaths should only be allowed in an approved facility that is licensed to kill and has the means to prove non-coercion, judicial approval, and citizenship, among other things.
- Deaths should be limited to those with a defined terminal illness. Failure to do so will leave it open to subjective and contradicting standards which could include thousands of Canadians. For example, require life expectancy of less than a month.
- The law must explicitly preclude psychological suffering. Parliament has the freedom to precisely define the term “grievous and irremediable” and must do so. Psychological suffering is inherently subjective and difficult to measure and will be particularly susceptible to abuse as its difficult to know whether truly informed consent was obtained.
- The law must require that physicians refer patients that may be suffering from psychiatric or psychological disorders or depression for counselling. Death may not be granted until it can be confirmed by the counsellor that the patient is not suffering psychologically or from depression.
- The law must require consent that is witnessed by at least two others, with the entire process video recorded. One of the witnesses must not be a relative or someone entitled to a portion of their estate. Consent must be given both orally and written, no less than 15 days apart, and can be rescinded at any time and in any manner without regard to his or her mental state.
- At the end of the survey you can share some final comments with the panel. We encourage you to ask them to read ARPA’s policy report and draft law, both available at www.arpacanada.ca. Please wrap up with a personal plea for the panel to do all they can to uphold the inherent value of human life. Don’t hesitate to make it personal, including with stories you may have experienced.
- You are always welcome to share what God says in His Word, without feeling you need to apologize for it. However, keep in mind that the panel will not hold to the authority of the Bible so don’t write in a way that suggests they do. Most importantly, ensure that everything you write is filled with both grace and truth.
Maximize your Impact!
- Before closing your computer, pray that God will bless your submission and that it may fall on soft hearts of both the panel and the government it will report to. Pray that God will have mercy on our land and allow justice and righteousness to flourish. And pray that we may be faithful and loving neighbours, also in a land that may legalize and celebrate killing.
- Share this article on Facebook or Twitter and ask your friends to take action as well.
- Don’t stop! We will need help encouraging the new government to be brave and pass a law that prohibits all euthanasia and assisted suicide. Stay tuned for action updates this winter.