Lawyers with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), of which Mennonite Church Canada is a member, have joined lawyers from across the country in signing a declaration that condemns the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
“I signed the declaration because I don’t believe that the law should change,” explains Don Hutchinson, EFC vice-president and general legal counsel. “Assisted suicide and euthanasia should remain illegal. Canadian law is founded on a life-respecting ethos. The ‘right to life’ under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not include the right to be killed.”
The declaration, which is non-sectarian, focuses on the legal ramifications of decriminalization, stating “the decriminalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide would necessarily lead to the acceptance of consensual killing and may lead to a legal obligation on one party to kill another.”
“To change our laws, to legalize these practices, would be to alter the foundations of our society,” states Hutchinson. “We support the rights of patients to refuse treatment and we support increased funding for palliative care. But we cannot support the killing of patients as healthcare. The risks and ramifications are just too great. In 21st-century Canada we have the ability to increase access to quality care and pain management, which would further assist patients in living out their final days with dignity.”
“In law, we often talk about ‘slippery slopes,’ how a step in one direction can trigger a chain reaction of unwanted consequences,” says EFC legal counsel Faye Sonier. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘How can a decision by a court or a new legislative provision later be used to justify and legalize other future behaviours when we consider legalizing consensual killings in Canada?”
“Let’s consider Belgium’s euthanasia law, the model that the Quebec government adopted when it drafted its own proposed euthanasia legislation, Bill 52,” says Sonier. “Belgium is now considering broadening its law beyond adults with capacity to consent, to include children by decision of their parents and people with dementia.”
The Netherlands, another pioneer in legalizing euthanasia, has also seen standards and safeguards for euthanasia watered down over the years. At this point, physical suffering or illness is not required to qualify for euthanasia. Reports of “involuntary euthanasia,” or the medical murder of patients without penalty, have been reported. In both Belgium and The Netherlands, legislative and court decisions have led to increasingly lax considerations in regard to application of euthanasia in practice.
“Let’s not kid ourselves,” says Sonier. “We know how the law and judicial interpretation work. If a court or government legalizes the practices, even if it puts what it believes are strict safeguards in place to minimize abuse or to limit access to euthanasia, someone who does not qualify will bring a lawsuit to challenge the law, alleging discrimination. Depending on their circumstances, they just might win. And so the law will be expanded and broadened, and an increased number of Canadians will be put at risk.”
“I hope, as awareness of this declaration grows, more lawyers will sign it and share their concern for vulnerable citizens and the legal, life-affirming foundations of our society,” says Sonier.
The declaration and the list of current signatories can be found at www.lawyersagainsteuthanasia.com.
--Posted Feb. 26, 2014
This article is part of a six-part feature on end-of-life issues. See also:
Other faiths speak out on end-of-life issues (introduction)
Applying ancient wisdom to the here and now (Buddhism)
Obligated to ‘choose life’ (Judaism)
For discussion: Other faiths speak out on end-of-life issues