Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 31, 2005
Physician-assisted suicide opponents marshall arguments
Parliament will debate private member's bill
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
In advance of the Oct. 31 House of Commons debate on assisted suicide, opponents are searching for the best strategies to defend the rights of the disabled and the elderly.
Politicians had some help from disabled rights activist Mark Pickup, who told an Oct. 25 Parliament Hill luncheon gathering any attempt to legalize euthanasia represents blatant discrimination against disabled people.
Pickup, who lives with multiple sclerosis, said nobody would consider allowing able-bodied people to seek assisted suicide.
In fact society would advocate hospitalizing them until the crisis is past, he said.
"Only when we talk about disability, do we talk about the right for self-determination," he told about 30 MPs, staffers and advocates.
Kill the depressed
Pickup said Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde's Private Members' Bill C-407 would give people "the right to kill the sick and depressed with impunity."
Sponsored by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), the luncheon drew about a dozen MPs, mostly from the Conservative Party of Canada, Hill staffers and representatives from pro-life organizations.
EFC legal and policy advisor Janet Epp Buckingham suggested the most persuasive arguments will use equality rights based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to defend the disabled and elderly.
Conservative MP Stockwell Day told the gathering Parliament Hill has become a "prison of political correctness" where MPs defending pro-life issues "freeze up, panic or shut up."
"If we get the truth out people will be persuaded," he said.
Pickup warned that the Canadian government is "sympathetic to euthanasia at the most senior levels."
He passed out correspondence between a board member of his organization HumanLife Matters and Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, noting Cotler has said he welcomes reopening debate on assisted suicide.
"Questions ranging from the quality of medical care available to seriously ill and dying people to the moral questions involving a person's power to control his or her own life and even the value of life itself must be considered when debating this subject."
"The value of whose lives are up for debate?" Pickup asked. "It's a frightening time to be disabled. It's worrisome to be incurably ill with a degenerative disease. I am a medical expense with no prospect of a cure."
If Bill C-407 does not pass, Pickup said the government will come up with its own bill with "safeguards" to prevent abuses.
But he reminded the audience of how quickly the stringent safeguards designed to prevent abuse of the abortion law fell by the wayside, so that by 1982 there were more abortions than live births in the city of Toronto.
Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott said stronger support for palliative care might head off the debate, an argument the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has made.
The Canadian Catholic School Trustees' Association (CCSTA) has also joined the fray. The CCSTA called on its members to contact MPs to register their opposition to Bill C-407.
"As Catholic school trustees and as Canadians, we are for the protection of human life, not for providing legal means by which to end life," said CCSTA President Gerald Bernakevitch in an Oct. 20 news release.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has been at the forefront of the debate, and recently held a Toronto conference on the issue. It has launched a website at www.StopBillC-407.com offering commentary on the bill, information resources, a discussion forum and an online petition.