Norm Sterling Conservative MPP for Carleton, introduced into the Ontario Legislature on April 26, a private member’s Bill to sanction Living Wills.  Mr. Sterling aimed to gauge the response of the House to legislation which would open the door to legalized euthanasia in the province.  The bill had the tacit support of Attorney General Ian Scott, but was allowed to die.

The bill would enable someone to give an individual power of attorney to permit or refuse medical treatment for him.

Sterling has had the backing of Dying with Dignity, an organization which promotes euthanasia.

Although members of the House greeted the proposed legislation with varying degrees of enthusiasm, Sterling was visibly angry when he realized that it was going to be defeated at the whim of the Liberal caucus on this occasion, and that he wasn’t going to get much credit for his efforts.

David Reveille, the NDP member for Riverdale, spoke approvingly of another pro-euthanasia organization, the notorious U.S. based Hemlock Society.  Hans Daigler, the Liberal MPP for Nepean near Ottawa, thought that the measure should be known as a “Natural Death Will.”

Hidden Dangers

The great danger in living wills is what they don’t say.  How does a physician know whether the patient was mentally competent when the will was drawn up?  The doctor acts without certain knowledge, but he is protected and not liable for damages.  The patient, however, will be dead.

How can the physician know if the witnesses were not related to the patient and possible beneficiaries of the estate?  Settlement leaves no time for a probate court.

How can the physician know if the framer(s) of the will have revoked its terms?  Furthermore, he may not know if the witnesses are of the age or competence to judge the ability of the patient to make such a will.

Similar laws in the U.S. at least provide a modicum of protection for the patient.  Among those not allowed to act as witnesses are physicians, their employees and presumed beneficiaries.  The absence in Mr. Sterling’s bill of these exemptions opens ailing and infirm Ontarians to abuse and premature death.

The bill’s definition of “life-saving procedure” is vague.  Using it in an actual hospital situation would not make clear, for example, that providing food and water is routine nursing care and not a medical procedure which can be removed to kill the patient.