Last Updated: Friday - 10/01/2010
October 4, 2010
Quebec seen as beachhead for euthanasia in N. America
Euthanasia lobby focuses its efforts as province keeps issue brewing
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA - International pro-euthanasia forces see Quebec as a vulnerable beachhead for legalizing euthanasia in Canada and then the rest of North America, warns ethicist Margaret Somerville.
Though many Canadians outside Quebec were reassured by the resounding defeat of a Bloc Quebecois' pro-euthanasia private members bill earlier this year, Somerville said pro-euthanasia forces regroup after each defeat.
"We used to think that's the end of it, but as soon as that's finished, the next one starts up," she said.
Somerville, the founding director of McGill's Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, compared the pro-euthanasia movement to an incoming tide that begins with incoming waves.
"Each time they come in, they come in stronger," she said. "The tide comes in gentle, then stronger and stronger, and then it comes in and sweeps everything away."
Somerville and others are keeping an eye on Quebec, where a legislative committee is holding public hearings on euthanasia.
"That's exactly what we're in danger of seeing here," she said. Especially worrying is the fact that surveys show about 79 per cent of Quebecers "think euthanasia is a good idea."
"Many people are really asleep at the wheel," warned McGill history professor John Zucchi, who presented a brief on behalf of 54 of his academic colleagues to Select Committee on Dying with Dignity (SCDD) when it began its tour of the province in early September.
Though the rest of Canada is opposed to euthanasia, Zucchi warned Quebec's choosing it could set off a domino effect from province to province.
Quebec has experienced a "a fair amount of pressure" from the euthanasia lobby, said Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director Alex Schadenberg.
The province may try to bring in a de facto legalization of certain types of euthanasia by changing the provincial prosecution guidelines, he said.
Quebec may also argue that euthanasia and assisted suicide are health matters or medical acts, which are under provincial jurisdiction.
"We don't want euthanasia and assisted suicide being smuggled into our health system under the guise of a medical act," said Living with Dignity director Linda Couture. She heads a new group that is rallying anti-euthanasia forces in the province to respond to the SCDD hearings.
Changing the definition of euthanasia from a criminal act to a medical act "softens" the issue in the public's mind, Couture said.
The other side is well organized, she said.
Quebeckers are confused about palliative care, she said. "Most people see it as the place where they make you die." They also confuse the withdrawal of futile medical treatment with euthanasia. They do not realize that euthanasia is the intentional killing of someone.
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