Euthanasia: Theory and reality

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

By Alex Schadenberg

On Feb. 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s assisted suicide law, opening the door to assisted death (Carter v. Canada).

This is an incredibly complex topic, one fraught with moral and ethical issues.

Canadians have been sold the theory that euthanasia can freely end one’s life at the time and place of their choosing. This theory assumes that euthanasia will be voluntary and that the decision and the act is controlled by the person who dies by euthanasia.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) contends that the theory of legal euthanasia and its practice are very different. Since euthanasia, by definition, means that the physician will cause the death of the patient, therefore misuse of the law resulting in a person’s death would normally be understood to be homicide.

Euthanasia in practice

A study published in March 2015 concerning end-of-life practices in 2013 in Belgium found that 4.6 per cent of all deaths were euthanasia. The same study also found that 1.7 per cent of all deaths were hastened without explicit request. This means that approximately 1000 people were intentionally killed without request in 2013. The data indicates deaths that were hastened without request were more likely to occur when a patient was in a hospital and incompetent to make medical decisions.

How did this occur?

The guidelines in Belgium and the Netherlands require the physician who causes death by euthanasia to report the euthanasia after the patient has died. Since the doctor who approves the death is the same doctor who submits the report, and since there is no third-party oversight of the law, therefore the system has been designed to “cover up” misuse of the law.

The same misuse of the law will likely occur in Canada. The proposed Quebec euthanasia guidelines also require the physician who lethally injects the patient to submit the report to the government. The Quebec system also provides no third-party oversight of the law, while enabling physicians to cover up misuse of the law when directly killing a patient.

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