Time of essence in Quebec group's battle against euthanasia

  • June 30, 2010
euthanasiaA grassroots organization is calling on the Quebec public to stop euthanasia and assisted suicide “from being smuggled into the public health care system under the guise of medical treatment.”

But time is running out for the Montreal-based group, Vivre dans la Dignité (Living with Dignity), to sway public opinion on euthanasia. On June 22, the group launched a campaign to help people better understand the issues as the National Assembly draws an online survey to a close July 16, part of a public consultation on euthanasia.

“Our entire concern is stopping euthanasia and assisted suicide by working to ensure that all Quebecers facing end of life have access to palliative care,” said Linda Couture of Living with Dignity.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are killing, plain and simple. We cannot allow killing to be confused with health care in Quebec.”

The National Assembly’s public consultation, which began in May, directs the public to read a document on the debate before completing an online survey. A letter in the document, from the vice-chair of the Select Committee on Dying with Dignity, says polls of medical specialists and the public “demonstrated a substantial level of support for medically assisted death under certain circumstances.”

However, Dr. Marc Beauchamp, a member of Living with Dignity and an outspoken critic of the survey groups, dismisses the statistics as “embarrassing rubbish.”

“The response rate to the specialists survey was only 23 per cent — less than the turnout for municipal elections on a matter that is of fundamental professional importance to doctors,” Beauchamp said in a press release. “The questions were so amateurishly biased that most of the doctors I know looked at it and refused to respond to such rubbish.”

Margaret Somerville, an ethicist at Montreal’s McGill University, said the confusion over euthanasia possibly comes from the widespread rejection of religion and any teachings that accompany it.

“One of the roles of religion was to hold the wisdom of the past on trust for generations. And because we’ve largely abandoned religion, we’re in danger of not doing that,” Somerville said.

People need to understand the breadth of the question before they can understand what the best answer may be regarding euthanasia, she said.

“What we decide to do on this is one of the most important decisions that we will make for the societies of the future. And so what we need to ask is what will this mean for our great-great-great grandchildren if we say it’s okay now,” said Somerville.

For more information on Living with Dignity or the public consultation, see www.vivredignite.com.

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