Charles Lewis: We can’t hide the looming mess of Bill C-7

  • April 16, 2020

In 2006 I was home for about a month recovering from back surgery. It was the first time in my life I was so confined. I was literally staring at all four walls … and what I saw was not pretty.

We had purchased our home in 2000 but because of a heavy work schedule I did not spend much time there. I was gone early each day and by the time I got home it was dark. On weekends, when I was not working, I was too tired to care about anything but sleep and a good meal out. I was more or less oblivious to my domestic surroundings.

But when I was forced to stay at home I began to notice everything that was off: the paint so faded I was not sure what the original colour was, cracks in the plaster, and the worn out couch that was my temporary headquarters and a sagging bookshelf in the living room that I began to despise.

When my personal crisis passed, changes were made. I could no longer live in the midst of so many flaws.

I am certain that during this time of quarantine many are thinking the same thing. How have we lived in this mess? Why have I let things go? When will I finally sweep away that cobweb in the corner of the ceiling?

As long as we are thinking about flaws and things in need of change, there is something else we will need to deal with once the pandemic has passed, things more important than paint.

It is easy to forget that before COVID-19 we were dealing with other issues, some life or death that are eroding the very fabric of our society.

We need to remember that just before we went into lockdown our federal government had proposed loosening the rules on euthanasia.

Under Bill C-7 the “requirement for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable in order to be eligible for MAiD” would be removed.

This requirement was the main reason we were told in 2016, when euthanasia became legal, why the law would be safe. We were also told that any mental illness that could blur the capacity to consent would not be eligible.

Now both of those would change if Bill C-7 should pass.

In other words, a person dying of cancer but also suffering from mental illness could be euthanized. It is hard to imagine how that will work if the person cannot give informed consent.

The 2017 federal budget set aside somewhere between $6-10 billion for improved palliative care. Those who read my columns will know that little of this money has been spent. They will also know that only 30 per cent of those who require such care can get it. Now imagine what the crush for beds will be like if Bill C-7 becomes law.

Imagine, too, if three years ago the government had spent the money aggressively. It would have also helped to deal with the number of patients pouring into hospitals with the virus.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised when he ran for office that his government would grant conscience rights to doctors in the province. Today, doctors who oppose euthanasia must still abet the process by making direct referrals. To refuse could mean fines and losing their right to practice in Ontario.

Why the government has yet to act is unclear. Perhaps not everyone in government favours such a move. But a promise is a promise. And we should hold them to it.

We live in a world where rights are granted to groups who are fighting for such causes as being called by their preferred pronouns or choosing the public washrooms of their choice.

Yet the people who actually contribute to society through the profession, who are now risking their lives in this awful pandemic, are not allowed to have a conscience. What a mess.

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

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