Carter v. Canada is a hard case, and it's bad law. It's about people with serious, debilitating, terminal illnesses who want doctors to kill them. It's not just that they want to die, it's that they want to die later and to have someone else do it in a way that won't hurt.
The plaintiffs and Justice Lynn Smith focused on the seriously ill people and their situation. I want to focus on the doctors and the rest of us who will be harmed if this decision becomes law.
We don't need to speculate. The Netherlands has already gone down this slippery slope and provided the grizzly statistics that should stop us going down the same path.
A 1973 court decision in the Netherlands started the process. Doctors and lawyers set strict guidelines to restrict when doctors could assist a terminally ill patient who wanted to commit suicide, and to protect a terminally ill patient who didn't want to be euthanized (i.e., killed).
"In only 23 years, Dutch doctors have gone from being permitted to kill the terminally ill who ask for it, to killing the chronically ill who ask for it, to killing newborn babies in their cribs because they have birth defects, even though by definition they cannot ask for it. Dutch doctors also engage in involuntary euthanasia without significant legal consequence, even though such activity is officially prohibited," writes Wesley J. Smith in Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder.
Guidelines won't protect us, if the Dutch experience tells us anything. For example, a key guideline is that a person should not be euthanized due to the expense of keeping them alive. In a television documentary, one man said he was only agreeing to be euthanized because he didn't want to be a financial burden on his family. He was killed.
After the guidelines had been in place for 23 years, doctors were surveyed about people they euthanized. Incidentally, doctors later admitted they had under-reported euthanasia cases, so the following statistics are actually less than what really happened.
In 1990, 130,000 people died in the Netherlands: 2,300 people asked doctors to kill them; 400 asked doctors to provide them with the means to kill themselves; 8,100 died when doctors deliberately gave them an overdose of pain medication to kill them (for which 4,941 patients didn't consent); 1,040 people died when doctors euthanized them without their knowledge or consent (72 per cent of those never having given any indication they would want their lives terminated).
That's breathtaking in more than one way.
It's not so much that nine per cent died at the hands of doctors, which is alarming in and of itself. What should raise our cries of outrage is that 4,941 people (four per cent) did not give their consent to being killed. A doctor who operates on someone without their consent can be successfully sued and made to pay huge dollars for having done so. The same should apply for killing a person without their consent.
And it's the 1,040 people (one per cent) who were killed without their knowledge or consent and the 749 who never wanted to die early that should get us up in arms.
Dutch doctors have gone from fighting death to administering death. We should never have to worry whether a doctor will decide we should be put down rather than healed or cared for.
We also need to be working hard at finding ways to alleviate the pain and distress of terminally ill or debilitating ill patients - other than by killing them, that is.
We also need to make sure that our health-care system is delivering available treatments and the care we know how to give to these vulnerable patients. We're not going to fix the health care system by getting rid of the more difficult cases.
We need to get the word out: demonstrate, write letters to the editor and to our MPs, blog, get it out on the social media, and talk about it with anyone who will listen.
We need to focus on how this will affect us - and it will - and get the message across that it's not just about the hard cases. It's about us, too.
â€” Troy Media
Anne McTavish is a conflict coach and lawyer.