Rory Leishman:

On Nov. 29, the Toronto Star published a remarkable commentary headlined “Justice Minister David Lametti under fire for ‘unbelievable’ comparisons between euthanasia and suicide.” According to the Stars national columnist Althia Raj, Lametti reminded her in a recent interview “that suicide generally is available to people” and explained that the purpose of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) is to help people “who, for physical reasons and possibly mental reasons, can’t do it themselves.”

Raj was shocked by this remark. Her naivete is astounding. As a national columnist for the largest daily newspaper in the country, she should have long been aware that MAiD is a euphemism for the death-dealing actions of physicians who commit euthanasia by killing a patient upon request, or assist a patient to commit suicide.

Until recently, it was a serious criminal offense for a physician to commit MAiD in either form. In section 229, the Criminal Code states: “Culpable homicide is murder where the person who causes the death of a human being means to cause his death.” That the person who is killed asked to be killed matters not. Section 14 of the Code specifies: “No person is entitled to consent to have death inflicted on them, and such consent does not affect the criminal responsibility of any person by whom death may be inflicted on the person by whom consent is given.”

Taken alone, sections 229 and 14 clearly imply that any Canadian who plans and deliberately kills a person at the person’s request is guilty of first-degree murder. Correspondingly, section 241 (1) of the Criminal Code states: “Everyone is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years who … aids a person to die by suicide.”

How, then, can physicians get away with murdering a patient or assisting a patient to commit suicide under the guise of providing medical assistance in dying?

The Supreme Court of Canada and the Trudeau Liberal government are both to blame. In the 2016 Carter ruling, Canada’s top court arbitrarily decreed that regardless of what the Criminal Code of Canada provides, the guarantee in section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that all Canadians have a right to life and liberty means that mentally competent adults with a grievous and irremediable illness have a right to physician-assisted suicide.

The Carter ruling had no basis in the law, the constitution, or precedent. But instead of invoking the notwithstanding clause of the Charter to combat this entirely illegitimate, judicial usurpation of legislative powers, the Trudeau Liberals and their progressive allies in Parliament enacted the so-called Medical Assistance in Dying law which provides that the blanket prohibition on assisted suicide in section 241 of the Criminal Code no longer applies “with respect to a person who consents to have death inflicted on them by means of medical assistance in dying.” 

Pro-lifers in Parliament were appalled. They warned that enacting such a radical break with an ancient and fundamental moral rule prohibiting anyone from assisting in a suicide would have dire consequences.  

Time has proven these critics were right. Raj, in her commentary for the Toronto Star, expressed particular concern about the plan of the Trudeau Liberals to extend the MAiD law in March to the mentally ill. She noted that the prognosis for patients with a grievous mental illness is so fraught with uncertainty that once these patients become eligible for MAID, many who are suffering from what might be only a temporary depression could get killed by the very physicians who are supposed to help and care for them.

Thanks to advances in modern medicine, palliative-care physicians can do more than ever before to alleviate the pain, anxiety, depression, choking, breathlessness, and other symptoms that sometimes afflict the dying. All these are the beneficent forms of medical assistance in dying that the federal and provincial governments should strive to make available to all Canadians upon request.

Meanwhile, it is urgent that Parliament repeal the MAiD law. So long as this illegitimate and pernicious legislation remains in effect, the catastrophic consequences are bound to get ever worse.

Even now, it is evident that for the protection of vulnerable Canadians it is vital that the Criminal Code of Canada should once again affirm that for physicians, no less than for all other Canadians, deliberately killing a suicidal person upon request or assisting the person to commit suicide is a crime that can never be justified.