July 20, 2024
Euthanasia's slippery slope gets steeper in Canada every year
A close-up of a terminally ill man's hand with drip.
A close-up of a terminally ill man’s hand with drip.

Over the decades when the legalization of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide was being debated, the vow by its proponents in Canada was that there would be no slippery slope and certainly never any compulsion for physicians to take part.

In a little more than four years, those promises that opponents always knew were hollow have been abandoned.

With every year that passes since Feb. 6, 2015 — when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously to allow physicians to kill their patients — the slope in Canada keeps getting steeper and slicker.

Last Wednesday, the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled that doctors in that province must refer their patients seeking what is now euphemistically being called MAID (Medical Assistance-in-Dying) to a physician who will kill their patient.

In his 74-page ruling, Chief Justice George Strathy wrote that patients in a vulnerable state “seeking MAID, abortion, contraception and other aspects of sexual health care, turn to their family physicians for advice, care and, if necessary, medical treatment or intervention.

“Given the importance of family physicians as ‘gatekeepers’ and ‘patient navigators’ in the health care system, there is compelling evidence that patients will suffer harm in the absence of an effective referral.”

This three-panel court ruling and its previous lower court judgment that was being appealed violates Section 241.9 of the Criminal Code on Medical Assistance in Dying, written and passed after much debate by elected parliamentarians. The code states: “For greater certainty, nothing in this section compels an individual to provide or assist in providing medical assistance in dying.”

Nothing except an Ontario court of appeal, apparently. This ruling violates the criminal code and must be overturned or, better yet, the Ontario government should do what Alberta’s College of Physicians and Surgeons so wisely instituted with the support of Alberta’s former NDP government, which was to create a list of physicians willing to perform physician-assisted suicide (PAS). That way, physicians, for religious reasons or for reasons of conscience, do not have to make a direct referral for a patient to be euthanized but simply provide them with a list. This is not a vague distinction but a very delineated and significant one.

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