By Jonathon Van Maren
Wherever euthanasia regimes take root, one thing is guaranteed: Deaths by euthanasia and assisted suicide will consistently skyrocket. In Belgium, according to the Brussels Times, the Euthanasia Commission reported 2,655 euthanasia deaths in 2019, a 12.5% increase from 2018. Other countries appear to be heading down the same track. After narrowly voting down euthanasia legislation in 2018, Portugal appears more likely to legalize it this year with backing from the Socialist majority, and Germany’s top court also overturned their ban professionally-assisted suicide earlier this year.
And in Canada, our already lax assisted suicide laws are set to be loosened even further by Trudeau’s Liberals. As Mark Penninga and John Sikkema of the Association for Reformed Political Action put it in the National Post:
The Liberal government tabled legislation on Monday to broaden Canada’s laws restricting “medical assistance in dying” (MAID) because a Quebec judge ruled last September that “assisted dying” should be available to those who are not dying, but may have many years to live. Before rushing to satisfy the demands for more open access to MAID, Parliament should pause and consider what trajectory we are on and whether there is a better way to respond to the increasingly common requests for state-sponsored suicide.
Our nation has three options. First, respond to requests for medically assisted suicide as we would to all others who want to end their own life: offering support, care, and suicide prevention. Second, allow MAID in very limited situations, such as when people are suffering and near death. Third, show total deference for human autonomy by allowing MAID for anyone who wants to end their life.
Before the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2015 Carter decision allowing assisted suicide, Parliament overwhelmingly defeated more than a dozen bills that would have legalized the practice, maintaining that life is sacred and the right to life can’t be extinguished, even if someone doesn’t think their own life is worth living. Although Parliament passed Bill C-14 in response to the Carter decision, thinking it could follow option two, the fact that Parliament is already broadening MAID proves that it is quickly sliding to option three.
Parliament should pause and consider what trajectory we are on. Our Liberal government accepted the Quebec judge’s decision that we should allow doctors to kill people who are not dying. The Ministry of Justice explained that the government “will expand eligibility for MAID beyond people who are nearing the end of life, and could possibly also result in other changes once the review is complete.”
The new legislation is a disaster, but it is unlikely that it can be defeated. Canada’s media was almost entirely in favor of legalization a few years ago, and despite a few columns here and there pointing out the dangers of, for example, offering suicide to those with mental illness (who may be suicidal as a result), it is generally accepted that suicide is a good thing that should be offered by the government and funded by the taxpayer. The political opposition, with a few notable exceptions, was also minimal.
For anyone who wants to learn how to get comfortable discussing these issues, I recommend the little book I co-authored with my colleague Blaise Alleyne, A Guide To Discussing Assisted Suicide (which was based on real conversations) and ARPA Canada’s new resource (based on a lot of the arguments put forward in the book) Care Not Kill. Talking to our neighbors and peers about this life and death issue is one of the best ways Christians can respond.