Alex Schadenberg executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. Photo by Evan Boudreau.

No denying, Canada is on slippery slope to euthanasia

  • November 5, 2014

Updated 11/6/14

TORONTO - Canada's health care industry is already on a slippery slope to accepting euthanasia and it may soon turn into a full-blown avalanche, warns Alex Schadenberg. 

“This day it is all about my body and my choice, but this is a lie,” said the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. “If we allow it, the euthanasia lobbyists can sell us on choice and we will lose this because everyone in 2014 wants choice. You can say you support this or you support that but you cannot deny the slippery slope."  

Although euthanasia and assisted suicide have been debated in Canada for a number of years, the passing of Quebec's Bill 52, which legalized “medical aid in dying,” this past June officially started Canada on the slippery slope, said Schadenberg. 

“We are not opposed to medical treatment, we are not opposed to proper care, we are not opposed, we're in favour of palliative care — we are in favour of all of those things. We are simply opposed to killing people,” said Schadenberg. Euthanasia is the legalization of homicide facilitated by medical professionals, he said. 

Schadenberg delivered the deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research's annual lecture at Toronto's Tyndale University on Nov. 4.

As evidence of the slippery slope, Schadenberg pointed to the impact legalized euthanasia has had in Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States. 

In Oregon, one of the five states south of the border that have either legalized assisted suicide or had it imposed by courts, the suicide rate has increased by about 50 per cent since 2000, Schadenberg. The national average over that time is 28 per cent.

“There is a clear suicide contagion effect,” he said. “The risk of suicide increases with the closeness of the relation to the person who committed suicide. So if you knew that person personally you (are) more likely to consider suicide than if you did not know that person.”

These words come on the heels of the high profile self-requested assisted suicide of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old American who's life was ended on Nov. 1. Maynard, who was given only six months to live, opted for assisted suicide after being diagnosed with an aggressive malignant brain tumour on Jan. 1. 

Steven Passmore, one of about 120 who attended Schadenberg's lecture, fears first hand if euthanasia becomes standard practice in Canada. 

“I'm going to die if they do this,” said Passmore, who was born with cerebral palsy. “We (the disabled) are vulnerable because from the womb to the tomb somebody else is making decisions for us. When I was a child I had all kinds of surgeries, they were very painful but my dad made those decisions for me. 

“If euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalized instead of providing me health care the government would have come along and said, because of the pain and suffering that Steve will go through, because of the suffering that he is going through, the quality of his life is not acceptable to the government.” 

After exploring a variety of reasons to oppose the legalization of euthanasia, Schadenberg and Passmore, who has been advocating for the protection of the disabled for the past two decades, called on Canadians to be vocal in their opposition. 

“You must understand,” said Passmore, “we need voices like yours. I can't do this alone.” . 

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