...If physician-assisted suicide was adopted in Canada, we know from experience that it will not be reserved for only the terminally ill, regardless of safeguards that are put in place. Euthanasia and assisted suicide will extend from the terminally ill to the chronically ill, to the handicapped, then the disabled.
Advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide will promise narrow, tight guidelines. You know - the usual rhetoric about six months to live, intractable and uncontrollable pain, consecutive requests by the patient to a panel of doctors or some similar regulative process.
Don't be duped. Guidelines failed with abortion. Remember that tight narrow guidelines surrounded abortion acceptance. In 1969, Canada's justice minister, John Turner, stood in the House of Commons and assured a reluctant Parliament that:
"The (abortion) bill has rejected the eugenic, sociological or criminal offence reasons. The bill limits the possibility of therapeutic abortion to these circumstances: It is to be performed by a medical practitioner who is supported by a therapeutic abortion committee of medical practitioners in a certified or approved hospital, and the abortion is to be performed only where the health or life of the mother is in danger."
Once the bill became law, it did not limit abortion to certain circumstances; it allowed abortions in any circumstance. Abortions became so widespread under Canada's abortion law that by 1982, abortions outnumbered live births in Toronto.
Either Toronto had the unhealthiest women on the planet or the law was being flouted. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada overthrew the abortion law. Now there are no restrictions on abortion.
Why should we think it would be any different with euthanasia and assisted suicide? If history is any indicator, euthanasia and assisted suicide will not be confined to the terminally ill in the last few days of life...
This is a fine column written by Mark Pickup for Western Catholic Reporter, Canada's largest circulation religion weekly. Read the rest of it right here.