By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

OTTAWA, December 21, 2009 ( – The Royal Society of Canada, an association of scientists and scholars “dedicated to encouraging education and the advancement of knowledge in the natural and social sciences and the humanities” has established a panel of “experts” to “assess the pros and cons of permitting physician-assisted death” in Canada.

The society has appointed a six-member “Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision Making,” chaired by Dr. Udo Schuklenk, professor of philosophy and Ontario research chair in bioethics at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.

Four of the six panel members are already well known for their pro-euthanasia position, having published works in support of the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The expert panel will “focus squarely on the questions of whether or not physician-assisted suicide and/or voluntary euthanasia ought to be decriminalized in Canada,” Schuklenk said in a statement to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, adding that the panel plans widespread consultations. “We will tackle these questions by means of an in-depth review of the legal situation in the country, as well as a review of the situation clinicians, as well as terminally ill patients, face on the ground in Canada on a daily basis.”

The panel will also “canvas the international landscape,” Schuklenk said. “A number of jurisdictions outside Canada have since decriminalized physician assisted suicide and/or voluntary euthanasia. We will evaluate the experiences made in these countries with respect to influential arguments deployed against decriminalization by opponents of voluntary euthanasia and/or physician assisted suicide.”

Other members of the expert panel include Johannes van Delden, Chair of the Ethical Commission of the Medical Council of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences; Jocelyn Downie, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at Dalhousie University; Sheila McLean, International Bar Association Chair of Law and Ethics in Medicine at Glasgow University; Ross Upshur, Canada Research Chair in Primary Care Research at University of Toronto; and Daniel Weinstock, Canada Research Chair in Ethics and Philosophy at the University of Montreal.

Dr. Schuklenk is well known for his promotion of pro-euthanasia and atheistic philosophy.

In an essay explaining why he is an atheist titled “Human Self-Determination, Biomedical Progress, and God” Schuklenk wrote, “I argue not only that we have no good reason to believe that a good, all-powerful, all-knowing God exists, but also that organizations and institutions campaigning in the name of God are frequently working toward preventing desirable societal progress in a number of crucial areas affecting our daily lives.

“No matter how unbearably patients suffer due to illness or injury toward the end of their lives, the world's monotheistic religions stand as one in their rejection of many dying patients' requests to end their lives in dignity. According to them, we are not ethically entitled to ask for physician assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia.”

Johannes van Delden is a Dutch euthanasia researcher and part of the council which promoted the legalization of euthanasia in the Netherlands.

Jocelyn Downie, author of Dying Justice, a book urging the decriminalization of both euthanasia and assisted suicide, is also a staunch abortion advocate. In her book, Downie maintains that “removing life-sustaining medical treatment” is “morally equivalent” to euthanasia or assisted suicide, and that “there is no difference between killing and letting die.”

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition repudiates this statement.

“This is a lie,” Schadenberg stated simply. Schadenberg stressed the importance of properly defining euthanasia and assisted suicide, which he said are commonly misunderstood. Contrary to the popular understanding, they are not about “aid in dying,” he explained, which is rather the domain of palliative care.

He emphasized that they are “about the direct and intentional cause of death,” and not “about withholding or withdrawing aggressive medical treatment.”  They are not, further, “about unintentional overdoses or unintentional deaths.”

Sheila McLean, as well as writing in favor of legalization of assisted suicide (The Case for Assisted Suicide) has argued for the legalization of human embryo research, endorsing the claim that “the moral status of the human embryo is not established until some time into its biological development after conception” and that embryos under 14 days old do not have the “moral status” of humans.

Daniel Weinstock is one of the academics consulted in the drafting of Quebec's contentious “Ethics and Religious Culture” (ERC) program, a relativistic ethics and religious education program that promotes homosexuality as normal and declares all religions, from Christianity to Animism as equally valid, and has been forced on all Quebec student against strong parental objection.

Neither Weinstock's nor Ross Upshur's positions on euthanasia and assisted suicide are evident as yet.

American bioethicist Wesley J. Smith observed in his blog that “Expert commissions” to advise on contentious issues of public policy are usually political tools designed to come to a predetermined conclusion in order to pave the way for a desired  policy change.

“… a panel with such a clear view in favor of assisted suicide, indicates the direction in which the commission's recommendations are expected (designed) to go,” Smith commented.

To contact the Royal Society of Canada:
Darren Gilmour, Director
170 Waller Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 9B9 CANADA
Phone: (613) 991-5760
Fax: (613) 991-6996
Email; [email protected]

William Leiss, Chair, Committee for Expert Panels
Phone: (613) 991-5760
Email: [email protected]


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