Recently Melbourne doctor and vice president of the Victorian pro-euthanasia organisation, Dr Rodney Syme wrote in The Saturday Paper arguing for a change in the language around euthanasia. Like his namesake in George Orwell's 1984, his is a form of Newspeak.
Alex Schadenberg blogged about an article in the Canadian press that would answer Syme and his 'Ministry of Truth' colleagues:
The National Post published an excellent article titled: Why can't we say euthanasia? concerning the passage of Québec euthanasia Bill, by Lise Ravary, a columnist and Blogger for Le Journal de Montréal.
The first point made by Ravary is that Bill 52 legalized euthanasia. She states:
Quebec's "Dying with dignity" legislation... was adopted last week. Assisted suicide it is not. Nor is it refusal of treatment or terminal palliative sedation, both of which are legal in Canada.
It is euthanasia, ... This is illegal according to Canada's Criminal Code, but now allowed in Quebec. Expect a constitutional clash.
Ravary points out that only four jurisdictions in the world have legalized euthanasia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and now Québec.
Ravary then wrote about the manipulation of language in the euthanasia debate. She states:
I made this point in my blog for Le Journal de Montréal the day after Bill C-52 became law. The reaction was broad and swift. In his column, one of my colleagues denounced people who insist on using the word euthanasia, deeming it incorrect. Unpalatable perhaps, but incorrect it is not. Belgian legislation refers to euthanasia. The Québec select committee report called it euthanasia. If the word bothers Quebecers so much, perhaps the enthusiasm for "dying with dignity" is not as strong as we would like to think it is.
Or perhaps, the concept is not clearly understood. A 2013 Ipsos Marketing poll showed that merely one-third of Quebecers know what "dying with dignity" really entails. Another third thinks it means palliative care and rest believes that it refers to assisted suicide or cessation of treatments.
Ravary then argues that Québec has every reason to fear a slippery slope, she writes:
Once the taboo against ending life is broken, what's next? When Belgium passed its law way back in 2002, 24 people chose euthanasia. In 2013, that number had jumped to 1,816. Not all of them were terminally ill or in physical pain. A pair of 45 year-old deaf twin males chose to die because they could not face on-coming blindness. A transsexual whose sex change operation was botched asked to be euthanized, as did a woman suffering from anorexia. Children under 18 too can "die with dignity" and Belgium now accepts euthanasia requests from prisoners serving life sentences.
Who's to say Quebec law will not be broadened? A medical committee is already at work on extending the right to 'dying with dignity' to old people with dementia.
Ravery then points out that most people in Québec don't have access to palliative care and the legislation states that improvements to palliative care will be based on:
"within the limits of human, material and financial resources."
In other words most people in Québec will lack effective "choice."
Ravery concludes her article by stating:
If every dying patient had access to palliative care, including terminal palliative sedation, a real choice would exist between euthanasia and effective, compassionate end-of-life care. When palliative care and pain management are not available, or badly provided, euthanasia will always come out as the compassionate choice. And the least expensive one.
Maybe that's why so many palliative care doctors are against it. ... Maybe that's why we like euthanasia so much.
Québec's euthanasia bill was based on smoke and mirrors. Change the language, create confusion and then say that the people support it.
The producers of the movie "Wag the Dog" would be proud.