The election campaign is moving ahead and politicians are firing out their promises. Yet despite their life or death implication for all Canadians, the issues of assisted suicide and euthanasia remain taboo! The next government will have as a first duty the enormous responsibility of passing a law to regulate assisted suicide in time for the Supreme Court’s February 6, 2016 deadline.
Moreover, the aggressive reaction of Quebec politicians against palliative care professionals who refuse to kill people under their care announces a serious danger for all of Canada. This attack on freedom strongly suggests that the "right to die" will inevitably become an obligation to kill if we do not take all legislative precautions to avoid it.
We recognize that the wording of laws and regulations will either enable or discourage misuse of assisted suicide or euthanasia. However, it is well known that no safeguards can entirely prevent the deaths of ineligible and non-consenting people. The data from a recent study in Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, found that 1.7% of all deaths were intentionally hastened without request and people with depression and cognitive disorders are dying by euthanasia. The new Canadian government must use all means available to prevent such tragedies.
Faced with the silence of the political parties, the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), the EPC – BC, and Living with Dignity are adding their voice to those calling for a clear position with firm commitments from all political parties before the end of the election campaign so that Canadians can make an informed choice.
Together, we ask that all political parties publicly commit themselves to enact legislation and implement regulations which:
• protect vulnerable citizens from inducement to suicide, including people with physical and intellectual disabilities, those with mental illness, loss of autonomy or advanced chronic disease, and those at the end of life;
• improve the quality and accessibility of palliative care for all Canadians, for there is no true free and informed consent to death if the patient is not aware of, or has no access to, the alternatives;
• uphold freedom of conscience for caregivers in all health care environments by preventing any form of coercion and pressure to participate in the killing of persons under their care.
It would be a serious injustice to Canadians to leave unaddressed such fundamental issues for the future of our society. Canadians have the right to know how our elderly, disabled and terminally ill citizens will be treated after the federal election of October 19.
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