Senator Betty Unger: I cannot support (Bill C-14) euthanasia and assisted suicide

This speech was delivered by Senator Betty Unger in Canada's Senate and posted on her website on June 15, 2016

"I do not know what is more alarming:
The fact that we are on the wrong road,
or the fact that we do not recognize it
and that so many are cheering"

Senator Betty Unger
Speaking to Bill C-14

 Senator Betty Unger

 Senator Betty Unger

Honourable Senators, I stand here today as but one voice in this Chamber.

My voice is not as loud or as strong as others in this House.

Yet behind me stand many, by the thousands, who wish their voices could be heard.

I am honoured to be speaking on their behalf.

And today, I hope you do not just hear my voice, but the sound of their voices as well.

These are the many people who weep that Canada’s moral fabric is being destroyed: Who beg us not to underestimate the harm that will follow when our hitherto and dearly held values are being shredded.

These are the elderly and the vulnerable: Who have now been burdened with new fears about visiting their doctor or being admitted to the hospital.

I propose to you that if this legislation was for a clear moral good there would be no need for debate.

It would be resoundingly supported not only in these halls, but in the halls of our nation.

Yet we do not hear such a sound, fellow Senators.

We hear the sound of division, of anger, of disagreement, and of fear.

I do not know which is more alarming:

The fact that we are on the wrong road, or the fact that we do not recognize it and that so many are cheering.

A fundamental tenant is, “Do not kill the innocent. Life is sacred.”

Yet in considering this legislation we have dismissed so many safeguards that the innocent are certain to be killed.

Why we cannot see it, I do not know.

Ignoring the lessons of history we elevate the right of the individual over the good of society.

Canada has had its democratic values uprooted: While in theory, “Parliament is Supreme”, this has become blatantly false.

The Supreme Court has supplanted our elected Parliamentarians by foisting “Judge-made law” on Canadians.

And although Parliaments across the nation could invoke the notwithstanding clause to ensure that this decision receives its proper deliberation, they seem unprepared to do so.

Where did we go so wrong, and when will we admit that the Supreme Court has gone too far?

What will it take? On what will they rule next?

Is there no situation under which the parliaments of Canada would be prepared to exercise their right under the Charter and invoke the notwithstanding clause?

I, for one, am not holding my breath, and I believe we are wrong, my friends. This story does not end well.

My only hope is that more and more Canadians are beginning to realize that something is terribly wrong and are rejecting the benign-sounding Medical Assistance in Dying Bill C-14.

Regrettably, far too few parliamentarians are amongst them.

I cannot support this legislation.

I don’t think this has been our finest hour: politics were ever-present. But may the gracious God who gave us life have mercy on us when He takes it in the end.

Belgian Psychiatric euthanasia request based on sexual attraction

Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Sébastien

Sébastien

BBC News has reported that a Belgium man, known as Sébastien, is seeking euthanasia based on psychological suffering in order to end his struggle with his sexual attractions.

The BBC article by Jonathon Blake explains that in Belgium, euthanasia for psychological suffering requires three doctors to approve the act (one of the doctors should be a psychiatrist), The law says that they must be suffering incurable, constant and unbearable physical or psychological suffering. The article states:

Sébastien has undergone 17 years of therapy, counselling and medication and believes he has no other option. 
He claims to be attracted to young men and adolescent boys and is scarred from a difficult childhood; his mother was ill and there was a strict Catholic ethos. 
"My whole life has led me to this, really," 
"I have always thought about death. Looking back on my earliest memories, it's always been in my thoughts. It's a permanent suffering, like being a prisoner in my own body," 
"A constant sense of shame, feeling tired, being attracted to people you shouldn't be attracted to - as though everything were the opposite of what I would have wanted."

The article examines differing views on psychiatric euthanasia. Psychiatrist Caroline Depuydt, who works at a psychiatric hospital in Brussels, encourages her patients to try further treatment.

We always have something that could work. Time, medication, psychotherapy - something that we must try and keep going with that. And the psychiatrist must give hope to the patient that it's never finished,

Gilles Genicot, a lecturer in medical law at the University of Liege, and a member of the euthanasia review committee says that you can never rule out the option of euthanasia.

Sébastien's case does not fulfil the legal criteria for euthanasia. 
It's more likely he has psychological problems relating to his sexuality. I cannot find a trace of actual psychic illness here. 
But what you cannot do is purely rule out the option of euthanasia for such patients.
They can fall within the scope of the law once every reasonable treatment has been tried unsuccessfully and three doctors come to the conclusion that no other option remains. 
Sébastien's request for euthanasia has been accepted initially, he now faces further assessments to determine whether his case fits within the law.

When asked whether he would change his mind, Sébastien states:

"If someone could give me some kind of miracle cure, why not? But for now, I really don't believe it any more. And I'm too exhausted also, whatever may be out there." 
Although he is calm - almost matter of fact - about wanting to end his life deliberately, he acknowledges the effect this will have on the people around him. 
"The hardest thing now is telling my family. If I get a yes, that's what's going to be most delicate."

Belgian Psychiatrist, Lieve Thienpont, published a study, last year, on the first 100 requests she received for euthanasia for psychiatric reasons. The data states:

  • 77 euthanasia requests were made by woman, 23 were men,
  • of the 48 approved requests, 35 died by euthanasia, 
  • 1 died by palliative sedation (sedation with withdrawal of water),
  • the average age was 47,
  • 58 were depressed, 50 had a personality disorder,
  • 12 were autistic, 13 had post traumatic stress disorder, 11 had anxiety disorder, 10 had an eating disorder, etc.

Last year, there were 2021 reported euthanasia deaths in Belgium. Recent studies indicate that more than 40% of the euthanasia deaths are not reported.

Bill C-14 needs to be amended or defeated

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

The House of Commons passed Bill C-14, the government bill to regulate euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, with a 186 to 137 vote. Canada's Senate will begin to debate Bill C-14. The Senate has the power to amend and/or defeat the bill.

For those who are concerned that Bill C-14 will not be passed by June 6, the date imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada, stop worrying, it will definitely not become law by June 6. Therefore the approach needs to be to amend Bill C-14 in the Senate and if it is not adequately amended, to defeat the bill.

I appreciate the amendments to Bill C-14, An act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying made by the House of Commons

I recognize that conscience protection language has improved and some of the language of the bill was improved, but the most grievous sections of Bill C-14 were not amended. 

If this bill passes, in its current form, the language of Bill C-14 will lead to significant growth of euthanasia. There will be many stories that people will refer to as a "slippery slope." Let me tell you now, these stories will not be the result of a "slippery slope" but rather they will be based on the fact that the language of Bill C-14 allowed these acts to occur.

When I stated that the most grievous sections of the bill have not been amended, here is what I meant:

1. Bill C-14 continues to allow anyone to cause death by euthanasia or assisted suicide. 

• Bill C-14 - Section 227(2) states: 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
• Bill C-14 - Section 241(3) states: No person is a party to an offence under paragraph (1)(b) 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
• Bill C-14 - Section 241(5) states: No person commits an offence under paragraph (1)‍(b) if they do anything, at another person’s explicit request, for the purpose of aiding that other person to self-administer a substance that has been prescribed for that other person as part of the provision of medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.‍2.

No jurisdiction in the world offers legal immunity to anyone who does anything for the purposes of assisted dying. These sections must be struck from the bill.

2. Bill C-14 continues to provide medical practitioners or nurse practitioners total immunity for decisions or acts that contravene Bill C-14.

• Section 241.3 states: Before a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner provides a person with medical assistance in dying, the medical or nurse practitioner must: (a)be of the opinion that the person meets all of the criteria set out in subsection (1)
• Section 227(3) states: For greater certainty, the exemption set out in subsection (1) or (2) applies even if the person invoking it has a reasonable but mistaken beliefabout any fact that is an element of the exemption.

Sections 241.3(a) and 227(3) make it impossible to penalize medical or nurse practitioners for approving or doing an assisted death that contravenes the law, since the bill only requires them to: “be of the opinion” that the person meets all of the criteria of the law. This is the lowest possible standard. Further to that, Bill C-14 provides no effective oversight of the law.

If the person who died was incompetent, the medical or nurse practitioner would only need to state that he/she was “of the opinion” that the person was competent.

The Supreme Court of Canada in Carter approved assisted death based on: “a competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life.” 

Section 241.3(a), does not assure that the person is competent or clearly consents to the termination of life.  Therefore Bill C-14 does not respect the language of Carter. Unless Section 241.3(a) is amended to ensure that the person meets all of the criteria set out in subsection (1), Bill C-14 will be struck down by a future court decision. 

Bill C-14, in its current form, must be defeated.

Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia - Sign the Declaration

Physicians: Sign the Declaration (English) (French)

Citizens: Support the Declaration (English) (French)

WE AFFIRM THAT:

1. Patients at the end of life should receive diligent and competent care to relieve their pain and suffering. The physician has the obligation to use all the means available to achieve this end.

2. If a patient refuses treatment or requests its withdrawal, his or her wishes must be respected.

3. Modern palliative care skills, drugs and technology permit adequate symptom control for all terminally ill patients. These methods should be universally accessible.

4. A physician who is caring for a dying patient, and who cannot adequately control the person’s symptoms, should have access to the necessary expertise and support to be able to do so.

5. When suffering remains uncontrolled by state-of-the-art palliative care, individually adjusted sedation to a point of comfort may be used. In this, as in all palliative care, the goal remains optimal quality of life.

6. To provoke death voluntarily, by lethal injection or any other method, cannot be considered under any circumstance as “medical care”, and is contrary to medical ethics. It is never necessary to kill a patient in order to end his or her suffering. The 2400-year-old Hippocratic tradition was a major advance in civilization. It forbids euthanasia and mandates the protection of the weak and the maintenance of trust between the physician and the patient. It calls on physicians and other health professionals to use their knowledge and skills to heal the sick, creating a climate of mutual solidarity. It is ironic that the accepted standards of this ancient code of conduct, written at a time when the means of countering end of life suffering were very limited, might be considered inadequate in this age of refined capacity to control symptoms.

7. We must learn from the negative experiences of countries that have legalized euthanasia. Decriminalization often causes more problems than it is claimed to solve; those documented in the medical and legal literature include:

  • High rates of euthanasia without consent;
  • The impossibility of ensuring adequate reporting and respect for safeguards;
  • A loss of trust in the physician-patient relationship;
  • Conflicts within medical teams and within patients’ families

8. Medical licensing bodies must continue to fulfil their role as protectors of the public and of life, and support physicians in their efforts to improve the quality and accessibility of care of the dying, thus allowing all patients to receive excellent symptom relief throughout their illness and at the time of death.

Andrew Coyne: "extending assisted suicide to children and the mentally incompetent, once derided as “slippery slope” alarmism, is now the next item on the agenda."

Andrew Coyne

Andrew Coyne

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada's assisted suicide laws and used language to allow for the legalization of euthanasia. In their decision, the Supreme Court ordered parliament to legislate on the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

One argument employed by the Supreme court in their decision  clearly protected people was that Canada would employ a rigorous set of safeguards that would ensure that abuse of the law does not occur and there is no proof that Canada will experience an expansion of the law, that many of those who intervened against euthanasia and assisted suicide had predicted.

Well, Bill C-14 is not the law yet, the predicted expansion of the law is already occurring.

Andrew Coyne, a National Post columnist exposes the push to expand euthanasia, in his column: Who says the Supreme Court of Canada won't change its mind on assisted suicide - yet again? Coyne points states that:

Advocates of assisted suicide have already served notice they will challenge the legislation in court: because it does not apply to children, or the mentally incompetent; because it defines “grievous and irremediable” to mean, in part, that the patient’s “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable;” even for imposing a 15-day waiting period (since amended to 10). 
They will not rest, in short, until there is an unrestricted right to death on demand.

Coyne explains the inconsistency of the claims for euthanasia expansion:

...it is bizarre to see the same people discover, in a ruling that was expressly limited to mentally competent adults, a right to assisted suicide for children and the mentally incompetent. Bizarre, but not necessarily wrong. It is difficult to say how this Court will rule on any given question, and indeed the Court’s own logic, in finding in the Charter’s “right to life” a right to death, redefined as relief from suffering, would leave it little room to refuse that relief on the basis of age or infirmity, when the case is brought.

If, likewise, the court could reverse its own decision before, it may be persuaded to do so again. The justification offered for overturning Rodriguez was that in the interval the “matrix of legislative and social facts” had changed; that the fear that had justified the law then, namely that assisted suicide would otherwise come to be applied to a wider and wider expanse of the population, had been disproved by experience; or at any rate that whatever might have happened in Belgium and the Netherlands — where the numbers of those euthanized annually has skyrocketed, and where it is now available not only to children and the mentally ill but for the relief of all manner of ailments — could not happen here, on account of our differing “medico-legal cultures.”

In other words, the incremental expansion of the law is already occurring, even before Bill C-14 has passed into law. The hubris of the Court has already proven to be wrong. Coyne ends by stating:

But even if that were true at the time of the court’s ruling, it is clearly not true any more. The notion of extending assisted suicide to children and the mentally incompetent, once derided as “slippery slope” alarmism, is now the next item on the agenda. So it would be entirely open to the Court to find that the matrix of legislative and social facts had shifted again.

I’m not saying it will. But it certainly won’t if it is not asked.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition will never stop working to protect people from euthanasia and assisted suicide, through supports and through the courts.

Netherlands euthanasia clinic approves lethal injection for a woman who was sexually abused as a child

Alex Schadenberg, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

On May 14, the Daily Mail reported that a 45 year old woman, known as "Jackie," was approved for euthanasia based on psychiatric issues related to sexually abuse.

"Jackie" is the most recent case in a trend of increasing numbers of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands combined with increasing numbers of euthanasia deaths for psychiatric reasons.

The 2015 Netherlands euthanasia report stated that there were 5561 reported euthanasia deaths in 2015, up from 5306 in 2014, there were 109 reported euthanasia deaths for dementia, up from 81 in 2014, and there were 56 reported euthanasia deaths for psychiatric reasons, up from 41 in 2014.

News about this recent case comes after the shocking case of a physically healthy woman, in her 20's, died by euthanasia in the Netherlands for psychiatric reasons related to being sexually abused. 

According to the Daily Mail article by Sue Reid, in the most recent case, Jackie's sister stated:

This follows a traumatic childhood experience when she was sexually abused at five years old and developed depression as a result.

The Daily Mail reported that the euthanasia clinic received 1234 requests and was responsible for 36 of the 56 psychiatric euthanasia deaths in 2015.

Earlier this year, a study examining 66 cases of euthanasia for psychiatric reasons uncovered several significant concerns. The report indicated that women represented 70% of the psychiatric deaths. The researchers noted that controversial cases included:

a woman in her 70s without health problems had decided, with her husband, that they would not live without each other. After her husband died, she lived a life described as a "living hell" that was "meaningless." 
A consultant reported that this woman "did not feel depressed at all. She ate, drank and slept well. She followed the news and undertook activities."

The "End of Life" euthanasia clinic opened March 2012 with mobile euthanasia units in order to offer death to people who were either turned down by their doctor, or they people who lack mobility, sucha as people with disabilities and the frail elderly.

According to the Daily Mail article the first case of psychiatric euthanasia was also controversial:

After the clinic opened in 2012, its first psychiatric patient was a 54-year-old woman who had mysophobia (a pathological fear of germs or dirt). She, like other End Of Life patients, was killed at home after first being injected with a strong sedative and then a muscle relaxant which stops the heart. 
Gerty Casteelen, one of the clinic's psychiatrists, conducted eight hours of interviews with her before deciding that she really wished to die. 'It was a long process', the medic recalls. 'I came to understand that her fears completely controlled her life. 
'All she could do all day was clean. It was impossible for her to maintain a relationship. Her whole development had stalled.'

Other psychiatric euthanasia deaths attributed to the Netherlands euthanasia clinic include a woman who was going blind and obsessed with cleanliness

The Supreme Court of Canada stated in its Carter decision that euthanasia could be permitted for physical and psychological suffering. They did not define psychological suffering.

Canadians should be concerned that we are following the Dutch path.

Further reading:

Woman, in the 20's, who was sexually abused, dies by euthanasia in the Netherlands

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The 2015 Netherlands euthanasia report that was recently released states that there were 5561 reported euthanasia deaths in 2015, up from 5306 in 2014, there were 109 reported euthanasia deaths for dementia, up from 81 in 2014, and there were 56 reported euthanasia deaths for psychiatric reasons, up from 41 in 2014.

Shockingly, a woman who died by euthanasia for psychiatric reasons in 2015 was in her 20's and had been sexually abused.

The Daily Mail news reported:

The woman, in her twenties, was given a lethal injection after doctors and psychiatrists decided that her post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions were incurable. 
It went ahead despite improvements in the woman's psychological condition after 'intensive therapy' two years ago, and even though doctors in the Netherlands accept that a demand for death from a psychiatric patient may be no more than a cry for help. 
The woman, who has not been named, began to suffer from mental disorders 15 years ago following sexual abuse, according to the papers released by the Dutch Euthanasia Commission.

The Daily Mail reported that the Netherlands government released information about the case to prove that the case fulfilled the requirements of the law.

Link to the full article