HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, March 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — A Canadian pro-euthanasia ethicist has voiced what critics of the Supreme Court decision striking down the law on assisted suicide have warned against – that the ruling doesn't just allow doctors to give people the means to kill themselves, but to actually do the killing.
Jocelyn Downie, a professor at Dalhousie University, long-time advocate for the legalization of euthanasia, and author of the book Dying Justice: A Case for Decriminalizing Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada, wrote in an article published by Impact Ethics that uncertainty over the implications of the Supreme Court ruling is by no means necessary.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is clear,” Downie wrote. “The Court struck down the prohibitions on both physician-assisted suicide and physician-provided voluntary euthanasia. This is clear both from the terms used as well as the specific Criminal Code provisions it struck down.”
Downie’s article was in response to a question posed by Dr. Jeff Blackmer, director of ethics and professional affairs at the Canadian Medical Association, in an interview with the National Post.
“We’ve got a few key questions that we think need clarity and this is one of them: Is it euthanasia or is it assisted dying?” Blackmer asked. “It is not clear whether the high court has opened the door not just to assisted suicide — where a doctor writes a prescription for a lethal overdose of drugs the patient takes herself — but also to something many physicians find profoundly more uneasy: pushing the syringe themselves.”
Downie’s assertion stems from the Supreme Court’s use of the terms “assisted death” and “physician-assisted death,” which were terms introduced by BC Justice Lynn Smith in the 2012 Carter v. Canada case, rather than the terms assisted suicide and euthanasia as used in the Criminal Code.
“The Supreme Court then used these same terms throughout its decision,” Downie wrote. “Since the Court did not distance itself from her [Smith's] definitions or otherwise offer alternative definitions, there is no reason to believe the Court understood the terms any differently than as set out by Justice Smith. Therefore, given that the Supreme Court struck down the challenged provisions of the Criminal Code ‘insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted death,’ we can conclude that they opened the door to both 'writing a prescription' and 'pushing the syringe'.”
“In sum, if the Supreme Court of Canada had intended to only allow physician-assisted suicide, it would have used the expression ‘physician-assisted suicide’ rather than ‘physician-assisted dying’ and it would have declared invalid only section 241(b) of the Criminal Code, and not also section 14,” she said. “It did neither. Its decision allows both kinds of physician-assisted dying.”
However, Downie's claim that euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada is a done deal was challenged by Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), who saw Downie's assertions as a ploy to stop debate on the issue and to influence the legislation the government was directed to enact by the Court, within twelve months, to replace the provisions it had struck down.
“First you have to understand who Jocelyn Downie is,” Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews. “She is the preeminent pro-euthanasia academic in Canada. The same one who is advocating against doctors' right of conscience and the same person who wrote in 2006 that doctors must refer for abortion.”
Schadenberg explained that it is possible for the federal government to create legislation that, while keeping euthanasia strictly illegal, will allow assisted suicide under a strong system of controls that will protect vulnerable people, again precisely due to what he called the “intentionally unclear terms 'assisted death' and 'physician-assisted death' used in this ruling.”
“So what is she doing in this article on the Supreme Court's decision? She's putting pressure on the government to give wide-open access to euthanasia. That's what she wants and that's what she's advocating for,” Schadenberg said.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition on the other hand is urging the government to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause, which allows Parliament to override a court ruling. He also wants the government to conduct a Royal Commission “to actually ascertain the facts that were missed by this decision, so that Canadians can be debating facts rather than the myths on which this decision is based.”
LifeSiteNews has launched a petition urging Parliament to invoke the “notwithstanding clause” and craft a law that will protect vulnerable Canadians from the Supreme Court ruling.