Euthanasia, often referred to as “mercy killing,” is an act or failure to act which of itself and by intention causes a person’s death, with the intention to end suffering. Legally, euthanasia is classified as homicide.
“Active euthanasia” refers to an act which intentionally causes the death of another person. This can be done in many ways, but is usually associated with a lethal injection.
“Euthanasia by omission” is an intentional failure to act, with the aim of causing the death of another person. This can be done in many ways but is usually done by withholding or withdrawing food and fluids in order to intentionally cause death. The person dies of dehydration, usually within 10 – 14 days.
Withholding or withdrawing medical treatment that is futile, burdensome or extraordinary is not euthanasia. Legally, you have the right to remove or refuse unwanted medical treatment.
Likewise, using pain management drugs that might cause the death of the patient is not euthanasia. The proper use of morphine and other analgesics rarely results in the death of the patient, but when the patient unintentionally dies of an overdose it is a double effect of the treatment and therefore not considered an offense.
Almost every nation in the world has laws restricting euthanasia, including Canada. The Canadian Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in 1995 decided by a 5 – 2 vote that euthanasia should remain illegal in Canada.
In 2001 the Supreme Court of Canada decided unanimously that Robert Latimer should not receive a lesser sentence in the euthanasia death of his daughter Tracy. He is serving a minimum sentence of 10 years before parole for second degree murder.
“Assisted Suicide” refers to providing the means for someone to kill themselves with the knowledge of that person’s intention. Physician-assisted suicide is carried out by a doctor providing enough deadly medication for a patient to kill him or herself, with the doctor knowing that the patient intends to commit suicide.
Assisted suicide and euthanasia are similar in the fact that both acts require the involvement of another person and both acts result in the intentional death of a person.
Section 241 of the Criminal Code – Under the title: Counselling or Aiding Suicide, states: Every one who (a) counsels a person to commit suicide, or (b) aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
The Supreme Court of Canada refused Sue Rodriguez’ request for assisted suicide by a 5 – 4 vote. The majority opinion was that Section 241 of the criminal code should be upheld to deter people from pressuring people with disabilities and other vulnerable people to request assisted suicide.
The Canadian Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in 1995 decided by a 4 – 3 vote that assisted suicide should remain illegal in Canada.
There is currently a case concerning assisted suicide before the courts. Evelyn Martens, who lives near Victoria, BC, has been charged with aiding and counselling the suicide deaths of two women in BC. Her trial will begin on Sept. 20, 2004Like euthanasia, almost every nation in the world has laws restricting assisted suicide. We urge all elected MPs to keep Canada within that group by defeating any proposed legislation which would allow euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide.