Parliament agreed on assisted suicide. Why didn’t the Supreme Court Listen?
In April 2010 the elected officials of this country soundly defeated Francine Lalonde’s Bill 562 calling for assisted-suicide, 228 to 59. Yet those wanting a change in Canada’s laws did not take that as the resounding voice of Canadians.
The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association used the Supreme Court to achieve its aim. “The BCCLA filed a lawsuit in 2011 to challenge the laws that criminalize doctors for helping competent, seriously ill individuals who wish to hasten death.” The emerging human faces of the campaign were Lee Carter, Hollis Johnson and Gloria Taylor stirring the emotions of all Canadians, they achieved their goal in February this year. Circumventing Canadian Law with a legal challenge via the courts and I am sure pleased with the “activist’ judiciary presently in Canada, which by a substantive pretzel type move, worthy of the Guinness Book of Records, found a right to die within the right to life! For the first time ever human life became subjective and was stripped of its inviolable nature under our Canadian law.
In its final report “Informing the Future: Mental Health Indicators” June 2015, the Mental Health Commission of Canada gave Red Codes to the following:
i) The rate of suicide per 100,000 adults (20-64) was 13.8 and drew a “Red Code” “indicating significant concerns and/or the indicator is moving in an undesirable direction”
ii) The rate of suicide per 100,000 youth 15-19 was 9 and also rated a “Red Code” “given the failure to dramatically reduce youth suicide in Canada”.
iii) The rate of suicide per 100,000 Canadians living in three Canadian territories was 30.9 and drew a Red Code with provisions, “While the high rate warrants a coding of red…the rate appears to be decreasing”.
iv) The rate of suicide per 100,000 Canadians aged 65 years or older was 10.4. “given a failure to reduce the seniors’ suicide rate over time and alarmingly high rates for older men this indicator is red.”
Why does Canada appear to have a “Red” code of preventative action for able-bodied folks while the Supreme Court gives a “Green” light for suicide assistance to those with health conditions, illnesses, injuries and disability? If suicide is devastating for one it is devastating for all.
What does this have to do with anything you might ask?
Well it matters because National and International programs are totally dedicated to suicide prevention. The United Nations has addressed suicide for the first time ever in its June 2015 report and called for universal action to prevent suicide, cluster suicides and suicide contagion.
In a recent letter concerning California’s consideration of assisted suicide legislation Dr Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist and director of the Program in Medical Ethics at the University of California Irvine, stated the following.
“The desire to end one’s life, or the request for assisted suicide, is almost always a cry for help…….. “It is a distress signal indicating that something in the patient’s situation is not adequately being attended to — an untreated clinical depression, fear or anxiety about the future or about one’s medical condition, untreated or under-treated pain, family or relationship strain or conflict, and so on.”
“The Oklahoman” Editorial Board, in its July 20th article entitled “Laws allowing assisted suicide can have far-reaching impact”, highlighted the letter where he noted
“that 80 percent to 90 percent of suicides are associated with clinical depression or other treatable mental disorders “including for individuals at the end-of-life and individuals with a terminal condition.”
Those championing suicide with medical assistance speak in terms of “autonomy and public acceptance” using language that masks the horror of suicide and its terrible legacy for remaining family and friends. Yet, in the 2014 Ipsos Reid survey commissioned by Dying with Dignity over 80% of Canadians apparently agreed with the following! “… A doctor should be able to help someone end their life if the person is a competent adult who is terminally ill, suffering unbearably and repeatedly asks for assistance to die”.
However, the Supreme Court sanctioned that “a competent adult person (1) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including and illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition”
Canadians have never been polled on this question. You do not have to be terminal or at the end of life, you do not have to have explored any other form of treatment or avenues to relieve pain or suffering – you just have to want to commit suicide! In effect, an 18 year old with diabetes who cannot face a life of self-injection could easily fit into this category.
On the Survivors of Suicide website it states:
“Without a doubt, suicide survivors suffer in a variety of ways: one, because they need to mourn the loss of someone who has died; two, because they have experienced a sudden, typically unexpected traumatic death; and three, because they are often shunned by a society unwilling to enter into the pain of their grief “
What on earth will this look like- when we are supposed to plan and celebrate suicide and we cannot? Suicide is not a private act it has public consequences, not least of is the devaluing of all human life and the effects on our youth and elderly – are we ready?