Opponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide staged a "die-in" following a rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, in early June 2016. CNS photo/Art Babych

Comment: Canada will be a full service death industry if we euthanize the mentally ill

  • October 18, 2017

During the summer I decided to take a break from speaking about euthanasia. There were several reasons. First, it was getting more and more difficult to find groups that were interested in hearing the anti-euthanasia message. Then when something was arranged only a handful of people would show up.

A few people I trust told me that my talks were sounding more cynical and my complaints about the lack of action from the churches and politicians were sounding like a broken record. I was like the cloud without the silver lining.

Worse, my studied perception was that Canadians, religious and secular, after just a year of legalization, had accepted euthanasia as just another medical procedure. It struck me as incredible that something so awful could be embraced so warmly and by so many as good and normal. I felt like I was knocking my head against a cement wall. I simply refused to accept the current state of affairs. 
In truth, I was no longer really offering a solution but rather laying out a dismal landscape. True, I did encourage Catholic parishes to organize themselves in a way to make sure their most isolated and ill parishioners were looked after by their co-parishioners, so as to prevent euthanasia from looking like an attractive option to those who were suffering and alone.

I have not changed my mind about euthanasia. It remains a pervasive evil and an embarrassment. I hate that it’s legal and mourn those who have been its victims.

But now I see an opening that could at least lead to slowing down euthanasia’s march. And perhaps a chance for the pro-life movement to re-engage on this issue and bring in new people to our side.

Late in 2018, as I’ve written about, a report from a Health Canada committee on the feasibility of expanding the parameters of the current legislation will be made public.

The legislation passed in 2016 requires those seeking death be of legal age and that their physicians believe that death is reasonably foreseeable. The committee looked at allowing euthanasia for teenagers and the mentally ill. As well, it is studied requests for euthanasia in advanced directives — essentially allowing those who fear falling into a vegetative state to be killed.

I want to take the first two and then I’ll get back to advanced directives in a separate column. There has been much research into what constitutes a vegetative state that it deserves a piece of its own.

Allowing teens and the mentally ill to access euthanasia will turn Canada into a full service death industry. Consider this: From June 2016 to June 2017, the first full year of legalized euthanasia, 1,982 Canadians were killed by their physicians. The numbers since then are not yet available. Imagine the number when we add new categories.

It’s always possible the committee has rejected expanding euthanasia. But the history of government-sponsored committees is not encouraging. The parliamentary committee charged with framing the 2016 legislation wanted wide open euthanasia and suggested society experiment with euthanasia for teens. I think those in the Liberal party pushing for legalized killing understood that allowing teens and the mentally ill to die could have created a wave of revulsion and stalled their efforts.

Many Canadians believe that adults in their right mind who are facing death should have the right to make their own end-of-life decisions. I think this kind of thinking is tragic and violates everything from natural law to the 10 Commandments and the teachings of Christ, but at this stage in the pro-life battle we have to accept what we are dealing with.

We need to hope and pray that these people will finally feel a twinge of conscience when asked to allow teenagers and the mentally ill to make the same fatal decisions. I know many pro-euthanasia people who have children. I wonder how they will react when confronted by the idea that their own sons and daughters could legally access death on demand.

For those who have stood on the sideline on this issue you now have an opening. We must start writing to our MPs and begin petitions in parishes. We need to push our priests and bishops to become more vocal. We also must start talking to those around us about the nightmare than could easily befall us.

Do you really want your children to die? Do you want those suffering from mental illness to opt for death instead of treatment? When they say that will never happen, point to Belgium and the Netherlands as examples of full-service killing machines.

We lost the first round out of indifference. There is no excuse now. Unless, of course, you’re comfortable with seeing that 2,000 deaths a year number balloon out of control.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Catholic Register.)

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