Ottawa – On May 12, 1992, a sub-group of the House of Commons Justice Committee started public hearings on changes for Canada’s Criminal Code. By the end of the summer the committee hopes to draft some guiding principles.
Among the topics to be discussed is the controversial issue of euthanasia. The Committee has before it a proposal from the Law Reform Commission’s president Gilles Letourneau. He proposes that “no one has a duty to continue medical treatment which is therapeutically useless or for which consent is expressly refused or withdrawn.”
The Law Reform Commission (LRC) was founded by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1972 and has now been phased out by the Mulroney government. Throughout its 20 years it has done great harm to Canadian society. Its government-appointed members supported the philosophy that “morality evolves,” as well as the view that what was true yesterday, is probably not true today.
The LRC proposal may seem simple, but it is not. One may ask, for example, what is meant by the terms “medical treatment,” or “therapeutically useless,” or “consent.”
Is the provision of food and water a form of medical treatment? Or is it to be regarded, even in the case of unconscious patients, as a necessary service which must be provided at all times, as a Committee of the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference in the United States ruled recently. To take away food and water, they say, is “euthanasia by omission” and is not morally permissible.
Similarly, what is the definition of “therapeutic,” and whose “consent” is in question when the patient is in a coma?
Think about the use of the term therapeutic abortion and the confusion behind this term will be clear. Abortion kills the preborn baby; hence it is not therapeutic for the baby. Pregnancy is not a disease, thus it can’t be therapeutic for the mother. In other words, therapeutic abortion is an abuse of the word “therapeutic.” Yet it is used all the time, not to bring healing but death.
One view holds that lawyers should stay out of medicine altogether. Up till now, doctors have done well with the general principle that their first task is to be healer and life saver.
Add to this the generally accepted guideline that any patient has the right to refuse the application of “extraordinary means” to stay alive, and with a little give and take, problems can be sorted out and doctor, patient and family have no need of outside interventions.
“Right” to die
This is not the view of those who belong to “Right-to-die” or “Death with Dignity” groups. They want the “right” to choose the moment to die, they think, and therefore they want this “right” to terminate life spelled out in legal terms. That these legal terms – never airtight and therefore always opening loopholes – may allow a shift from voluntary to unvoluntary death is no concern of theirs.
On the other hand, those who know that the “right” to voluntary death is itself an aberration and falsehood realize that once that falsehood is granted, involuntary death will follow automatically. The proof is in the pudding and may be found in Holland where thousands of elderly patients are being euthanized every year, that is, killed against their will.
Once again, legal history of the abortion issue is helpful.
When the law was changed and abortion became legal in Canada in 1969, the Criminal Code stated that abortions could be done for “the health of the mother.” Some members of parliament at the time worried about the possible abuse of the term “health,” but their proposals to give that word a more specific definition were waved aside by the Minister of Justice, at that time Mr. John Turner.
Today we all know that the word “health” became a simple push-button for opening the sluice gates of abortion-on-demand. Today abortions are done for any reason at all, including sex selection, as our front-page story of this month indicates. Needless to say, in any future abortion legislation, pro-life Canadians don’t want the word “health” in any part of it.
Campaign Life Coalition’s representative Karen Murawsky has said her Ottawa pro-life group will be watching the Committee closely.
In February of this year euthanasia opponents were able to kill Tory MP Bob Wenman’s bill. But the fear about legislating medicine remains: almost any legislation – other than an outright ban – may provide loopholes and tools for “liberalizing” vulnerable patients out of existence.