WE ARE ONE

Lasha Morningstar

March 17, 2014

Look through the window of a neo-natal intensive care unit and watch as physicians, interns, nurses fight for babies' lives. Nothing else exists for them in those moments. Tubes, machines, intravenous, parents sobbing and praying in the chapel.

That wee bundle of life matters.

Just ask the medical team, the parents.

Not perfect? A cleft palate. A heart condition. Down syndrome. Some other malady? Medical science and/or an evolved and a welcoming Canadian society quickly negates those "defects."

But don't tell that to Belgium. Or the Netherlands. Add Luxembourg, Oregon, Washington and Montana to that list.

True, Belgium and the Netherlands are the only countries – so far – to add the under 18 to their "put them to sleep forever list."

Netherlands introduced specific legislation to legalize assisted suicide and active euthanasia in 2002. That's true. But in actual fact its courts have permitted these assisted deaths since 1984. Deformed babies too are euthanized, sometimes without parents' consent.

Belgium legalized euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in 2002, if a patient requests it.

Now Belgian children 12 and up can make the same request. This just-proposed draft bill says a child must have "a capacity of discernment and be conscious" when they ask to die.

Can you imagine being a mother or father standing at your child's bedside and hearing your little one utter those words? Can you imagine letting the medics kill your child?

That's where the term doctor-assisted suicide gets its moniker. Somehow this medical euphemism seems to make it all right.

Will mothers and fathers be saying those words in Canada?

Quebec is taking the first step. No, you are right. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal under the Criminal Code. But Quebec is tucking the "right to die" step under health care.

"The Quebec legislature has the constitutional power to organize the required legal framework for end-of-life care within the health-care system," quotes Quebec junior health minister Veronique Hivon reading from a 400 page report.

But with an election in Quebec in the offing, many hope the side-step to death by design will fall by the wayside.

Our medical friends to the south, the American Medical Association, stamp a big "no" on physician-assisted suicide. They make three points:

  • It is "incompatible with the physician's role as a healer."
  • It could not be controlled.
  • It would also pose "serious societal risks."

APPOINT EXECUTIONERS

A British doctor, Dr. H.J. Thomson, writing in the British Medical Journal opined, "If governments want people to be cured and treated and given palliative care then let them continue to employ doctors. If they want people to be killed, then let them appoint executioners. I, for one, want no part in that."

Of course it is not only children who are at risk of termination. Baby boomers are marching towards becoming elders. Although most have had the advantage of knowing good nutrition, shelter, community and family, the stress of modern day society takes its toll.

They hear stories of people living in solitary rooms with dwindling pensions, or worse still, being trapped in institutional care and at the mercy of their rules and regulations.

Can you imagine being told you are forbidden to see your relative? After months living in that solitary confinement, perhaps battling bed sores, unable to eat the wretched food, wouldn't they be open to the suggestion of doctor-assisted suicide?

INESTIMABLE VALUE

Cardinal Sean O'Malley is already warning in his blog that assisted suicide "could become a new form of elder abuse and could mean fewer benefits or protections for the disabled. The legislation does not protect the terminally ill from pressure to commit suicide from indifferent family members or those who stand to inherit property."

Speaking from his heart, O'Malley said, "All life has inestimable value" as "even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God's creation, made in his own image, destined to live for ever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect."

Speaking in Sardinia in late September, Pope Francis denounced a "throwaway culture" that committed "hidden euthanasia" by neglecting and sidelining old people instead of caring for them.

ELDERLY DISCARDED

This follows his earlier comments, "Today elderly people are discarded when, in reality, they are the seat of wisdom of the society. The right to life means allowing people to live and not killing, allowing them to grow, to eat, to be educated, to be healed and to be permitted to die with dignity."

Stand up for life. Write your politicians. You speak not only for your fellow Canadians . . . but also yourself.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)