On May 13, 2009, Francine Lalonde MP (La Pointe-de-l’Ile, Quebec) introduced Bill C-384: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity).
Euthanasia is a deliberate act undertaken by one individual with the intention of ending the life of another individual to relieve that person’s suffering, where the act is the cause of death. Assisted suicide is the act of intentionally killing oneself with the assistance of another who provides the knowledge, means, or both. (Of Life and Death – 1995)
Bill C-384 states that the individual is eligible if: “after trying or expressly refusing the appropriate treatments available that they continue to experience severe physical or mental pain without any prospect of relief.”
The bill states that an individual is eligible for intended death if they experience severe physical pain without any prospect of relief. However, we know that physical pain can always be mitigated. Modern palliative care has substantially improved over the past 30 years. The concept of experiencing physical pain without any prospect of relief is a sign of a patient who has not been appropriately cared for and not a justifiable reason for intended death.
Bill C-384 directly threatens the lives of people with disabilities and/or people with chronic conditions. People with disabilities and chronic conditions are often perceived as being without any prospect of relief. These same people will usually view their life experience differently from those who are making judgements on their quality of life.
The bill states that an individual is eligible for intended death if they experience severe mental pain without any prospect of relief. Chronic depression and mental pain are always treatable. One must question the concept of intending the death of an individual who experiences chronic depression or mental pain because you can never be sure that the individual is competent to consent. The bill states that you must only “appear to be lucid.” Bill C-384 does not require that medical practitioners refer individuals with mental pain to a specialist.
The bill states that the individual is eligible for intended death if they suffer from a terminal illness.Bill C-384 does not define terminal illness. Many people live with a terminal illness but are not actively dying. Bill C-384 qualifies an individual for an intended death when they are diagnosed. Bill C-384 states that the individual is eligible for intended death if: “the person has provided a medical practitioner, while appearing to be lucid, with two written requests made more than 10 days apart expressly stating the person’s free and informed consent to opt to die.”
Bill C-384 would allow intended death to someone who may not actually be competent. Making two written requests more than 10 days apart is designed to prove the lasting intent of the individual. It is an illusion, because the individual who makes the request only needs to “appear to be lucid.”
Bill C-384 states that if: “the person has designated in writing, with free and informed consent, before two witnesses with no personal interest in the death of the person, another person to act on his or her behalf with any medical practitioner when the person does not appear to be lucid.”
It is unclear whether the individual who does the act of intended death of the incompetent individual must be a medical practitioner.
Bill C-384 requires that “the medical practitioner has informed the person of the consequences of the request for euthanasia or assisted suicide and of the alternatives that are available to the person.” This is designed to guarantee that the individual is aware of the available options. It is an illusion because the individual is not required to try effective treatments and there is no requirement to refer the individual to a palliative care specialist.
Legalizing euthanasia and/or assisted suicide is always wrong because it directly and intentionally threatens the lives of the most vulnerable members of society. The lives of people with disabilities and chronic conditions, people who live with depression and mental illness, and others are directly threatened by intended death.
Note: Although the current Bill was overturned by the majority on April 21, 2010, we must continue to work to be sure that the “right to die with dignity”, or euthanasia law, will never be introduced again.