Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 17, 2008
Euthanasia bill is in the works
New legislation for assisted suicide on political horizon
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
“(Robert Latimer) doesn’t have remorse.”
- Alex Schadenberg
Last fall, a parole board hearing turned down his request for release, because he was unrepentant for the killing. He appealed and won. He will live in Ottawa, where he plans to lobby for clemency and for a change in the law.
For Margaret Somerville, the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, one of the big dangers in the looming euthanasia debate is how confused the arguments and the cases in question become. This confusion can be "very favourable to the pro-euthanasia side," she said in an interview.
The Latimer case is not a euthanasia case, she stressed. Initially, the pro-euthanasia people recoiled in horror at the Latimer case, she said, because it was viewed as a father killing his disabled daughter.
"We know that familiarity inhibits our moral intuition, and so now it seems as though they are quite happy to say we should be nice to Mr. Latimer because it was just mercy and compassion," she said.
"Obviously what they're saying is that's an ethical justification for what he did and it should be a legal justification."
Somerville finds euthanasia "alarming no matter how broad or how narrow" the definition is.
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) executive director Alex Schadenberg said in a telephone interview he expects a new euthanasia and assisted suicide bill to be introduced after the next election.
He also expects Robert Latimer will be plying the halls of Parliament Hill, trying to win people over to his point of view. But Schadenberg thinks Latimer will be as effective as Jack Kevorkian, the so-called suicide doctor, when members of Parliament meet him and get a real sense of his motivation.
Maclean's Magazine's March 6 issue profiles Robert Latimer and reports on the underlying rage in his letters to politicians.
"His false idea of mercy seems to have bought him an early release," said Schadenberg. Normally he wouldn't qualify. He doesn't have remorse; he doesn't see he did any wrong.
Somerville believes that somehow Canadians need to be shocked back into seeing the larger moral context and what it means for the moral context if we legalize it.
Though she usually opposes linking abortion to euthanasia, she thinks the normalization of abortion provides a useful comparison. A third of all pregnancies end in abortion. One in four women in Canada have had an abortion, she pointed out.
"What if one in four people in Canada ended up being euthanized," she asked. "What would that mean as a society?"
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