Here is a link to a one-sided Canadian Press story that ran across Canada today and in the Times Colonist about the assisted suicide case.
It devotes more than 10 column inches to the views of those opposing Canada’s law against assisted suicide, one and a hlaf inches to the government’s defence of the law, and no space at all to the views of disabilities groups, religious groups and prolife groups who also support the law.
Below is my letter to the Times Colonist. Will they run it? Why not write your own?
Your Sunday edition included a lopsided story on the assisted suicide case that will heard by the BC Appeal Court in March: it devoted about 10 column inches to the arguments of those seeking assisted suicide, one and a half inches to the federal government’s defence of the law against assisted suicide, and no space at all to the views of grassroots disabilities groups, religious organizations and pro-life groups who also support the law.
But those with disabilities say they have good reason to fear assisted suicide, both for its specific dangers and for the direction it would move Canadian culture. The disabled already experience our culture as one that is often hostile towards their existence. They also experience the resentment of family members (and heirs) and believe that the law against assisted suicide protects them from the “assistance” of people and institutions with vested interests in their deaths. As Tony Dolan, the chairman of the Council for Canadians with Disabilities, recently put it while appealing for funds to intervene in the upcoming appeal, “Rather than being singled out as the only group deserving physician-assisted suicide, we need to know people want us alive, not dead. We are people with disabilities. We are moms and dads, students and teachers, workers and unemployed, young and old, and leaders and active citizens in our communities. We want help to live our lives, not end them.”
Medical doctor Will Johnston, also president of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of B.C., relates on the EPC-BC website case in which family members forced their aging mother to sell her home and move into a prison-like institution, and another case where the next of kin denied their father proper care until he needed hospitalization, whereupon they informed medical staff, “He’s had a good life. He wouldn’t want any treatment.” All he needed was fluids, it turned out, and was soon discharged.
Johnston fears that, if assisted suicide were once permitted, it would become a legal obligation for hospitals and doctors to offer it. “Some patients will experience even the most perfunctory acknowledgment of assisted suicide as an inducement to it,” says Johnston. “If state-sanctioned suicide becomes part of the atmosphere in our hospitals, a presumption in that direction will be created. I predict the same erosion of medical diligence that many of us on the front lines have already watched happen when caregivers choose to see a patient as having finished all useful life.”
Those who want assisted suicide for themselves fear the loss of autonomy and of “quality of life” that extreme infirmity would bring.
But this tends to equate value of life with quality of life—precisely what disabled people fear, since they already experience society’s judgement that their lives are not worth living—that they would be “better off dead.” That is why disabled people around the world have formed groups specifically to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, usually under the name, “Not Dead Yet.”
Shame on the Times Colonist for ignoring these groups, their opinions and those of many other ordinary Canadians, and for publishing a lame propaganda piece as if it were a legitimate news story.
Choose Life Victoria