In response to the adoption of bill C-14

Montreal, June 21, 2016 – With the adoption of Bill C-14 last Friday, euthanasia and assisted suicide are now legal everywhere in Canada. We can’t yet fathom all the challenges the medical profession will be facing in the coming months and years.

In our work over the past years, trying to prevent the Quebec and Canadian euthanasia laws, we have met hundreds of doctors who share our disbelief that governments in Canada would even consider promoting death as a solution to suffering. We are not a minuscule group of reactionaries as some would lead you to believe. There are more of us than you think.

There have always been people who want to die. In medicine we say they are suicidal, and our job is to help them to stay alive and to overcome the urge to die. Most do overcome it and are glad to be alive. Now some doctors are killing suicidal people instead of helping them live. Unbelievable. There is no difference between a person who is suicidal because of pain, or disability, or terminal illness, and one who is suicidal for other reasons.

The public is told that a majority of Canadians want legal euthanasia. That is false. Most people don’t even know what “medical assistance in dying” means. They think it refers to comfort care at the end of life, or to withdrawing treatment. They don’t know that it means being killed by a doctor.

What people really want is: not to suffer more than they can bear; not to be alone with their suffering; to be treated with respect; to have access to the health care they need, including palliative care; and to remain in their own home when they get older or develop a disability. Why aren’t we addressing those needs better?

Last Friday the Government of Canada chose death as a solution to suffering. Despite the warnings from other countries (>>). Despite the dangers for our citizens. Despite the fact that people will be driven to request it out of fear, loneliness, guilt, or coercion by others. Even the Supreme Court admitted that there are inherent risks in such legislation that can only be “limited” by safeguards (Carter, par. 105, 114 and 117 >>)  – but they certainly won’t be limited by the supposed safeguards in this law.

How the medical profession meets this challenge is up to us. We can give in to the new trend by saying “yes” to the patient who wants to die, referring him to someone else if we can’t stomach doing it ourselves.

Or we can care for him. Seriously. Going beyond what is required of us, listening more carefully, seeking creative solutions.

Euthanasia is cheap. And maybe it’s not easy now, but it will become easy if we get used to it. Our profession must never get used to it. History will judge us. A generation will come that looks back at ours with horror and disbelief if we adopt this new so-called solution to suffering.

Many Canadian doctors will resist any obligation to kill patients or refer them to be killed. We will always be there for the people who seek our help. We will call on colleagues if we lack the knowledge or resources to solve a problem. And once we’ve done everything we can, if our patient still says “Doctor, I want to be killed”, then and only then, will we say: “I’m sorry, that is not what I do. I’ll do everything in my power for you short of that. If you want to be killed, you’ll have to find someone else.”

There are forces that would coerce us to comply. Some are even within our own profession. Our strength is in numbers: we are the ones who are in harmony with medical ethics across centuries and across the world.

We won’t kill you. We’ll care for you. Which kind of doctor would you rather have?


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