The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition hosted a euthanasia symposium in Toronto on Oct. 25, featuring the pre-eminent speakers in their area of expertise: Ruth Enns, Dr. Ian Dowbiggin and Wesley Smith.

Wesley Smith, author of Forced Exit and The Culture of Death: The Destruction of Medical Ethics in America, and attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, spoke about the case of Terri Schiavo and the culture of death that has invaded medical ethics. Smith explained the background information in the Schiavo case within its historical context and emphasized how this case has the potential to reverse the onslaught of “mercy killing” in our society. The slippery slope concerning the starvation and dehydration of people with cognitive disabilities has already taken place. For the first time a real face was associated with starvation and dehydration and people have said no.

He said if starvation and dehydration is permitted, the door to full-blown euthanasia is open. He said advocates of euthanasia will point to the cruelty of starvation – which it is – and demand that patients being starved be mercifully killed.

Terri’s law was passed by the Florida legislature in two days about a week after the feeding tube being removed, thus giving Governor Jeb Bush the ability to intervene in cases of starvation and dehydration. This was possible only due to the force of the public demanding that Terri be saved.

Smith explained that the concept of Do No Harm (Hippocratic Oath) has been eroded by the bioethics movement. The most respected bio-ethics writers consider quality of life as the determining factor for deciding whether to provide medical care. The problem with the quality of life ethic is that it is completely subjective and results in the abandonment of the most vulnerable people in society.

Smith said that bioethics is morally obscene because it makes judgements about what lives are worth living. This is “nothing less than bigotry,” he said.

Ruth Enns, the author of the book A Voice Unheard, described by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s executive director Alex Schadenberg as “the definitive book on the Tracy Latimer case,” spoke on the Latimer murder trial, the Canadian response to it and the disability perspective.

Enns effectively demonstrated the relationship between the dehumanizing of Tracy and the reaction of Canadians to the Latimer trial. She said that the media looked at the issue from Robert Latimer’s perspective, and the public and the courts sympathized with the perpetrator of the crime instead of its victim, because she, Tracey, had a disability. She charged the media with not telling Tracey’s story by ignoring her many activities and her ability to communicate non-verbally about those activities she enjoyed.

Enns also explained the perspective of Canadians with disabilities by showing us how this case represented a part of the regular cultural experience of persons with disabilities.

Dr. Ian Dowbiggin, chair of the history department at the University of Prince Edward Island and the author of A Merciful End, a history of the euthanasia movement in America, examined the euthanasia movement in the light of the eugenics philosophy. Dowbiggin proved how the eugenics movement and the euthanasia society shared the same leadership and philosophy.

Dowbiggin also explained the cultural implications of the eugenics philosophy and showed how has been integrated into our society today.

Both euthanasia and eugenics are rooted in a philosophy that says it is better for society if certain people did not exist. But the connections, the philosophical roots go deeper than that he said, noting that the movements advocating euthanasia, eugenics, sex education, population control, gay rights and abortion all have something in common: they are connected by their “fervent dedication to over-turning centuries-old conceptions of life and death.” That is they are united in their hatred of Christian moral teaching and their desire to throw it into the trash bin of history.