Nicola Sapiens De Mitri Photo/Flickr via Nicola Sapiens De Mitri []

The next Belgium

  • February 12, 2015

And so it begins. The Supreme Court of Canada decision to legalize assisted suicide (and by extension euthanasia) is chilling but no surprise. Poll after poll has shown Canadian public sympathy moving steadily in favour of some form of state-sanctioned killing.  

Yet it is disquieting nonetheless to contemplate a society that, subject to some still undefined guidelines, now believes it is acceptable for one human to kill or help kill another. We are regressing. The last state-endorsed killing in Canada occurred when two murderers were executed in 1962. As a nation, with the exception of children in the womb, for half a century Canada had embraced as fundamental the principle that all life is sacred and worthy of protection. No more.

With this unanimous ruling the court has re-imagined the section of the Charter that enshrines a citizen’s right to life, liberty and personal security. Those fundamental life-affirming words were whirred through the court’s blender and poured out to now mean a citizen in physical or psychological distress has the right to not only reject life but to deputize a doctor to help them die (assisted suicide) or to kill them outright if they are unable to kill themselves (euthanasia).

It gets worse. This right to death extends beyond the terminally ill. The court ruled that any consenting adult with an incurable medical condition, even if it’s not life threatening, can select death by proxy if experiencing what is loosely framed as “enduring suffering that is intolerable.”

With this ruling, sanctity of life as a fundamental Canadian value is dead. Now, thou shalt indeed kill in some cases.

Individual choice has trumped society’s right to rule that life is inviolable, to affirm the unshakeable ethic that it is always wrong for one person to kill another. We are on dangerous ground.

Parliament now has one year to write laws that set out how doctors can terminate patients who meet the court’s fuzzy criteria. Good luck with that.

Drafting legislation in an election year on a matter that crosses legal, moral and ethical ground is a Herculean task.

Hopefully any new laws will place multiple roadblocks on a person’s path to assisted death. The court has kicked the door wide open; the government must push it back as far as possible.

But regardless of legislation, court challenges are inevitable as individuals and organizations push the boundaries on who can be killed. Today it’s about hastening death for those who can make that decision. Soon, inevitably, the discussion will be about euthanizing those who can’t.

That’s the situation in Europe, where the death net is being cast ever wider to round up the elderly, disabled and mentally ill, including children. Canada is now on that path. We’re the next Belgium.

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