Editor’s Note: The term “euthanasia” in Canada, in its legal voluntary form is called “medical assistance in dying” and became legal along with assisted suicide in June 2016. The term ‘assisted suicide’ means that the individual committing suicide dies by a self-administered drug rather than a doctor-administered lethal injection. “Medical assistance in dying” and “death by legal injection” mean that a doctor is assisting the person to commit suicide. In all cases, the topic is suicide.
A new source for human organ demands
Euthanasia (or medical-assistance in dying) became Canadian law in 2016, then joining Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Colombia as the only countries which allow euthanasia death by lethal injection. (Canada, in conjunction with a number of other countries including some states in the U.S., also allows assisted suicide which does not allow for organ harvesting.) Initially, the Canadian law had restrictions including a requirement that the candidate for euthanasia be a legal adult, with a terminal illness, close to death, and with mental capacity to make the decision. However, in just three years the landscape has changed considerably, as predicted by Alex Schadenberg of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and other euthanasia opponents, including this newspaper, Campaign Life Coalition and pro-lifers.
The initial purpose of euthanasia was touted by its supporters as a means of easing human suffering. It hastened death in order to cease pain, ignoring those in the medical community who were helping patients to control their pain. Very quickly, the rhetoric and activism ramped up. Activist judges, people with debilitating diseases (but not terminally ill), elderly people just fed up with life, those who didn’t want to suffer any pain or discomfort at all, and families who were tired of the cost and effort of caring for people in physical and mental need, all wanted to have a life ended prematurely. These examples, and more, are used by euthanasia proponents to reason that “the end justifies the means” that is, a desired result (usually an end to pain and/or suffering) is so good or important that any method, even a morally bad one (killing a person) may be used to achieve it. (We note here that the same reasoning was used for many years, and is still used to justify aborting a child: it would be psychologically wrong to have a child right now; education must be completed; an extra child would cause anxiety, debt and maybe even divorce if the pregnancy were to proceed; and so on). But what is being touted now regarding euthanasia, as with abortion, is a “right” in Canada to kill another person, or a “right” to have someone else implicit in one’s death, whether a medical person or a friend. And so Canada started to slip, from a country of compassion and love to one of convenience and self-realization. What we now have with both life-ending decisions – euthanasia and abortion – is a “right” to die, to kill another person, to eliminate inconvenience.
Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, has just released his statistics on euthanasia in Canada (See ‘5,000 Canadians killed by euthanasia in 2019 and 13,000 since legalization’ p.2). Since the statistics provided by the government are unreliable and somewhat confusing, we are using Schadenberg’s figures: As of Dec. 31, 2018, there were 7,949 medically-assisted deaths in Canada. Official statistics for the full year of 2019 are not yet available, but Schadenberg estimates that approximately 5,000 Canadians died by euthanasia in 2019, with a total estimation of 13,000 deaths since legalisation in June 2016.
Canada’s euthanasia laws are presently in some disarray due to a Quebec court decision in a case involving two plaintiffs, who are physically disabled, but not terminal, who want to be euthanized (see Andrew Lawtons column, p.2). The court has given the government until March to either appeal or update the law. Neither the Quebec nor the federal government chose to appeal; instead the Trudeau government launched hurried, biased public consultations until Jan. 27 to revise Canada’s euthanasia laws. It is speculated that, depending on public input, the following changes may be made: the age will be lowered, with perhaps even children considered for euthanasia; it will not be necessary for the person to be terminally ill or near death; and, mentally incompetent people – perhaps even those with mental illnesses – will be considered for euthanasia if they had made such a declaration while mentally competent.
A new source for human organ demands
Organ donation can be morally licit as long as donors are not killed for their organs or coerced into donating their organs. Moral issues surrounding organ donation must be resolved before medical and government officials rush in to meet the demand for organ transplants from euthanized people.
When euthanasia became law in 2016, the Trillium Gift of Life Network, the official Ontario organization that is responsible for organ and tissue donation in the province, became the first jurisdiction in the world to move into position to solicit donations from euthanasia clients. The Ottawa Citizenreported recently that, in 2019, organ and tissue donations by those who had died with medical assistance had accounted for 5 per cent of overall donations in Ontario, a share that has been increasing. In 2017 it was 2.1 per cent and increased to 3.6 per cent in 2018. In an opinion piece at Lifesitenews Jonathon Van Maren summarized: “Expanding the eligibility criteria for (medical-assistance-in-dying) is a positive thing because more dead people means more available organs. Further to that, allowing people who are not dying in the short term to have themselves killed means that the likelihood of getting organs in better condition (i.e. not damaged by disease) grows significantly. This is also, apparently, a good thing. At no point, it must be noted, does theOttawa Citizen’sglowing coverage quote anyone with any ethical concerns about approaching suicidal people with requests for their organs. Apparently we’ve moved past all that.”
There is some evidence that many vulnerable people who are contemplating death by euthanasia are being influenced to donate their organs. The thinking goes like this: if you are going to end your life, why not do something good by donating your organs and/or tissue so that someone else may continue to live. Or, in the case of those being euthanized without consent (Yes, it is happening.), John Smeaton of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in England has weighed in, noting that “coercive organ donation” is very real.
Medically, when a euthanasia patient is administered a lethal injection, the heart shuts down and stops beating two or three minutes later. Then, all organs, except the heart, can be transplanted to a living person. In order for the heart to be transplanted, the euthanized patient must still be alive. Therein lies a dilemma. How can a heart transplant be carried out if the euthanized person is still alive? Human organs begin to degrade immediately after death, which is why Planned Parenthood doctors cut the hearts out of living unborn children in order to give or sell the hearts as transplants. Many people have no problem with this. They do not consider the unborn child as human, or may think that such a tiny creature is disposable and therefore its heart is available for a living child. It is doubtful whether the families of babies receiving a new heart are even aware that the donor may have been an unborn child still alive when its heart was removed. Is society now ready to accept the same practice on adults? Alex Schadenberg calls this “euthanasia by organ donation” which is another moral question that society will have to consider.
A related issue concerns the surgery that must be undertaken in hospital to retrieve organs and tissue. Statistics show that most medically assisted deaths take place in the home environment, where the patient is comfortably surrounded by family and familiar objects. It has been suggested that in order for the organs and tissue (especially the heart) to be donated, the euthanized person would be given a sedative, and when the donor is unconscious, he/she would be transported to the hospital for the procedure to be completed and the lethal injection given.
Palliative care vs. euthanasia
Palliative care is seen as a normal part of life. It is end-of-life care; it neither seeks to hasten death nor intentionally end life. This puts it at odds with euthanasia. Only about 30 per cent of Canadians have access to high quality hospice palliative care, yet more than 90 per cent of terminally ill patients would benefit from it. The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) points out that “access to palliative care is not considered a fundamental right for Canadians.” In contrast, medical-assistance-in-dying, which only accounts for less than 1.5 per cent of all deaths in Canada has been deemed a right.
The Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner, B.C., a palliative care facility which has been receiving funding from the B.C. government, has come up against the euthanasia regime (See ‘Canadian hospice… p,11). That provincial government has ruled that only faith-based palliative care facilities will continue to be funded if they do not carry out euthanasia requests. The Ladner hospice, which is privately owned, has been ordered by B.C. Fraser Health to allow on-site euthanasia by legal injection by Feb. 3 for those patients who request it. At press time, there was a stand-off between the two entities.
End-of-life costs versus euthanasia
Another issue that arises is the question of health care costs. The National Postreported that a lethal injection costs about $25. Whereas it is estimated that, as death approaches, health care costs increase dramatically and may be around $139 million annually system-wide. Patients may choose a lethal injection and forgo costs that could be a burden to family or the taxpayer. Will the government begin to nudge or compel patients to end their life instead of allowing the natural process of dying to occur? As government costs rise, this may be another struggle with which Canadians will have to grapple.
Forced organ harvesting in China
Doctors in Communist China use similar methods as Planned Parenthood, only they are removing organs from already-born, living human beings and then killing them after the organs have been retrieved. This is called “forced organ harvesting” where organs are removed from Chinese prisoners, mainly but not exclusively Falun Gong adherents and Uighur Muslims. Chinese authorities say that they have outlawed this practice, but they have been found to be lying. Their illegal organ transplant industry is estimated to be worth $1 billion per year, an industry much too lucrative to give up just because the free world may find it abhorrent. The British Medical Ethics Journalwrites that the “claims of reform” are being supported by the “systematic falsification and manipulation of official organ transplant datasets in China” (as reported by John Zmirak in The Stream, Jan 13). Zmirak gives the following background and then delivers very disturbing news.
In 2019, the Vatican declared that the Chinese are the best implementers of the social doctrine of the Church. As this statement was being broadcast, Chinese Christians are seeing their churches bulldozed, their bibles being ‘rewritten’ to support Communist ideology, their clergy subjected to “re-education” and their Christian images (crosses, statues, etc,) smashed and replaced with pictures of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. But here’s the kicker. Bishop Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, went to China a second time to “praise its regime and promise closer cooperation with the Vatican.” And where did he deliver his remarks? At an organ harvesting conference in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province in the People’s Republic of China. Sorondo said that “Pope Francis has love and confidence in China; and China trusts Pope Francis … The next step is to reach [an agreement on establishing] diplomatic relations.”
Recently, Israel began to forbid transplant tourism to China for its citizens after they discovered that political prisoners were being killed to harvest organs. Might Israel enact a similar policy in regards to Canada’s harvesting of organs through euthanasia?