Physician-assisted death represents a diminished respect for the worth of human life and the indirect impact of physician-aided suicide is particularly troubling with respect to the vulnerable. Physician-assisted death cannot now, or ever become an acceptable solution. The acts of assisted suicide and euthanasia moves in the opposite direction of true compassion (which literally means to suffer along with), to false compassion. The suicide rate in Canada and the U.S.A. is accelerating. NEWSWEEK reported that over that past few decades, suicide has risen by an astounding 200 %. Notably, a leading North American suicidologist, Dr. David Clark says, "a contagion" of suicide "kills more people than AIDS every year." One other study concluded that "The death of a parent, particularly a mother, increases the risk of a suicide attempt by 600 times." Hence, reducing suicide remains a priority objective for the Department of Health and Human Services.
The American Journal of Psychiatry recently revealed that 95% of those who kill themselves have been shown to have a diagnosable psychiatric illness in the months preceding suicide. They also reported that, like other suicidal individuals, patients who desire an early death during a terminal illness are usually suffering from a treatable mental illness, most commonly a depressive condition. Strikingly, the overwhelming majority of the terminally ill fight for their life to the end." They said that "a thorough psychiatric evaluation for the presence of a treatable disorder may literally make the difference between choosing life or choosing death .... This is not an evaluation that can be made by the average physician unless he or she has had extensive experience with depression and suicide." [Id.]
Therefore, a truly compassionate society must continue to move in the direction of prevention; and increase the quality of care for the depressed, sick, disabled and dying. To support and condone the killing of the vulnerable in our society, decimates protection for the inviolability of all human life. We at Compassionate Healthcare Network Association denounce entirely all proposals to advance the practice of physician-assisted death, or any intentional intercession of a instrument or human agent to assist in the deliberate killing of a person. A law which agrees that some select few would be `better off dead' is a law whose application breeds inequality. What policing of physician-assisted death can we expect from the medical profession and courts in the future, should current laws be struck down by Parliament, when we have seen that several cases of obvious involuntary euthanasia have been carried out in Canada, and not prosecuted? If a new law were to be struck to allow a person to kill another person, or assist in their suicide, for benevolent reasons, how could it be proved the motive was not totalitarian or prejudicial? In general, the law looks to outward conduct, not inner motivation, it punishes acts, not thoughts. Furthermore, any move to establish a new offence of `mercy killing', is not a solution. As the British House of Lords concluded that:
To distinguish between murder and "mercy killing" would be to cross the line which prohibits any intentional killing, a line which we think it essential to preserve. Nor do we believe that "mercy killing" could be adequately defined, since it would involve determining precisely what constituted a compassionate motive. For these reasons we do not recommend the creation of a new offence. [Select Committee of Ethics Vol.I, p.53] Regarding motive, dissenting Chief Justice Lamer voiced his concern in the Rodriguez case saying: The truth is that we simply do not - and cannot know the range of implications that allowing some form of assisted suicide will have for persons with physical disabilities ... Respecting the consent of those [who wish to commit suicide] may necessarily imply running the risk that the consent will have been obtained improperly. [Rodriguez v. attorney Gen. of Can., 107 D.L.R.4th at 376 (Lamer, C.J.C., dissenting] In closing, we agree with Dutch physician, Dr. Gunning, who said, "Either human life is inviolable, or it is destructible. We can't have it both ways ... If we decide that human life is inviolable, then everybody's life must be protected by law."
In 1981, the Honourable Jean Chrétien imparted a message of hope, saying, "We have the occasion...to build, for our children and the children of our children a better Canada...a Canada which will protect the weakest in society...a Canada which will be an example to the world." Ladies and gentlemen, we believe the present law justifies the prohibition on assisted death; since the protective function of the law serves to protect the primary beneficiaries, those being - the vulnerable and weakest in our society.
REGARDING THE USE OF THE TERMS `KILLING' OR `MURDER' While browsing through one of my guides to writing, I came across this summary of euphemism: "Unless the desire to use a euphemism is inspired by the necessity to soften a blow or avoid offensiveness, the more factual term is to be preferred. Ordinarily, avoid euphemisms - or change the subject."
Another writers guide says euphemisms are used to: "distract us from the realities...is at best misleading and at worst dishonest and dangerous...if the terms make us forget...reality. ...Use euphemism when tact and genuine respect for the feelings of your audience warrants it. Do not use it to deceive."NOTES See also, "The Legacy of Sue Rodriguez" - When interviewed by Chris Wood, Cheryl Eckstein, President of CHN stated, "We do not see killing as a solution to illness and suffering." Woods said, "In a view endorsed by Hamilton's Latimer, and many other specialists in palliative care, Eckstein insisted that few terminally ill people request assistance in dying if their medical treatment is adequate. "True Compassion", Eckstein asserts, "literally means to suffer along with." In response to the above, Art Schilder, an HIV-infected activist says he "takes a `consumer perspective' on issues of death. What Eckstein calls `killing,' Schilder considers to be `a health-care choice that is essentially therapeutic"." MACLEAN'S/FEBRUARY 28, 1994, p. 24.
Cameron McWhirter, Uncovering secrets that mask suicide, Chicago Tribune, December 19, 1993, page 1 and 12. Suicide rate for ages 15 - 24 year-olds have risen from 5 percent in 1960, to 13.1 percent in 1990. "Dr. David Clark, the Chicago director of one of the few medical groups in the country studying why people take their own lives, says he hopes his myth-shattering research will put people like Kevorkian out of business." Clark also said, that "even if suicidal terminally ill patients are treated for depression, almost all go on to live out their lives." [Id., p.1] The report said that "Clark and his researchers are currently studying adolescent suicides." The need for more information is so great that Clark's research team have received "1.8 million dollar[s]" for this study. [Id., p.12] Also, rates for suicide are "up an astonishing 200 percent over the past four decades." [Teenage Suicide: One Act Not to Follow, NEWSWEEK, April 18, 1994, p. 49] In the same article, Dr. Frederick Goodwin, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said he "is irked by such opportunistic books as the best - selling "Final Exit", a kind of how-to manual for would-be suicides...." He also thinks Kevorkian's suicide machine "`trivializes' suicide and ignores the fact that in Western culture it is not looked on as a normal practice." [Id.]
Andrea Shaver, Political and Social Affairs, Teen Suicide, Background Paper, BP-236E, August 1990, page 7, note (6). Shaver cites three types of suicides, that is pivotal to this study. Briefly they include: (1) Altruistic suicide (when one commits suicide "for the benefit of the group" they are linked with), 2) Egoistic suicide, and (3) Anomic suicide (persons characterized as lonely, isolated, and suffering a major disruption, such as the death of a parent) [Id. at page 2] - This article also includes a significant study on "Suicide Clusters." Herbert Hendin & Gerald Klerman, Physician-Assisted Suicide: the Dangers of Legalization, 150 AM. J PSYCHIATRY 143 (1993), cited in, ISSUES IN LAW & MEDICINE, Vol. 8, Nu. 4, 1993, pp. 559-560.
Death Without Dignity, Euthanasia in Perspective, edited by Nigel M. de. S. Cameron, Rutherford House Books, 1990, pp.4-5]
It was October 25, 1881 in Malaga, Spain, and two men sat comfortably chatting waiting for the birth of the baby upstairs. When the midwife came in, she looked troubled and started to speak by casting her glance toward the floor, softly saying "I'm sorry." The baby was stillborn. One of the men put down his cigar and and got up. He was the baby's uncle and a physician. He walked quickly up the stairs. He picked up his tiny nephew, unmoving and blue. Without hesitation, he brought it close to his face as if to kiss it and breathed into its mouth, his breath still tinged with cigar smoke. The baby's mother looked on in fear and wonder as her baby began to breathe. The physician smiled at her and soon returned to finish his cigar. The story of the doctor who breathed life into a dead baby spread around the town. Some said it was unholy; others thought it might have been a miracle. Many thought it was foolish. Was it right to interfere with nature? Could such a baby survive for long? Could this infant ever grow into a normal human being or be able to contribute to society. The baby survived that day. Soon days became weeks, and weeks became years. Eventually, he learned to walk, and to talk, and even to draw. Of course, some people pointed out that he often seemed to get the eyes in the wrong place or mess up on a few other details like that, but others actually thought his drawings were quite good. Did the doctor do the right thing by saving this life? Should he simply have allowed the infant to die? There are no simple answers to those questions, but that baby lived for 92 years, most of them in good health, and its interesting to know that this is the way that Pablo Picasso came into the world.