Human Rights, Death, & Conscience: An Open Letter

So, the Bill C-14 Assisted Suicide legislation got punted from the Sentate to the House of Commons with amendments and it was not amended in a good way. Expanding access to people to include those who do not have a “reasonably foreseeable death”, and still nothing explicit about conscience protection for doctors.

So, like a good citizen, I wrote my MP and voiced my concerns. Likely, I will not hear a response (haven’t yet) but…hope is still there. My mum said this email was probably a touch long, but I don’t care.

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I’m emailing today because I have serious concerns about Bill C-14 and its amendments that would widen health care to include facilitating suicide for non-terminal patients.

One of the amendments states that people shouldn’t be allowed to request assisted suicide until they meet with a medical professional to discuss palliative care options (amendment 3). This is a start, but it is not good enough. Mental health assessments are also important. My research on this topic showed various statistics, but, the most alarming indicated that elderly people already have the highest suicide rate in Canada with upwards of 10+ per week. Removing the “foreseeable death” requirement (amendment 1) removes the obligation of making sure that older Canadians with terminal and non-terminal illnesses are given appropriate mental and physical health care. It is especially of note, that some treatments for illnesses can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. However, instead of getting people appropriate help, Bill C-14 and the amendments make it easier for these people to kill themselves.

However, as concerning as these aspects of Bill C-14 are, I continue to be concerned about what assisted suicide would do to us as a country.

I’m concerned about the message that it sends to those struggling with suicidal thoughts. There have been many news stories about the epidemic of suicides in the First Nations communities and among people (mostly teenagers) of all backgrounds (there have even been walkouts by high school students in Woodstock, Ontario after a number of suicides). Normalizing suicide as part of health care, and allowing doctors to assist with death when there is no “foreseeable death” is sending the wrong message to those who are struggling.

By allowing assisted suicide we make a mockery of suicide prevention. Normalizing suicide in any capacity will make it harder to speak out against suicides that our society wrongly sees as more tragic because suicide will now be seen as a right. How will we be able to tell certain parts of society they cannot practice their “right to die” while others can? Human rights can only be rights if they are universal. This is why a “right to die” can never be properly safeguarded.

The glaring omission of the bill is an explicit conscience protection right for physicians. In section 2 of the Canadian Charter under the title of Fundamental Freedoms, Canadians are given freedom of conscience regardless of age, gender, or race. Doctors deserve to be protected because their rights and freedoms are equal to their patients. If a person wants a doctor to help them kill themselves, the patient should be the one responsible for finding such a doctor. A doctor with serious objections should not be forced to participate in any capacity.  This should also apply to religious hospitals, care homes, and hospice centers.

I hope that in reviewing Bill C-14 and the amendments, you will see that allowing assisted suicide will neuter any attempts at suicide prevention among vulnerable people. Once something is declared a human right, it must be accessible to everyone.

I hope you will see that by allowing assisted suicide without making mental health and palliative care assessments a requirement, you are putting Canadians at risk.

I hope you will fight for conscience protections under the charter, and protect those doctors from backlash should they refuse to cooperate in another person’s death.

Allowing assisted suicide, you will send the message that some people are better off dead. That is not a country that I want to live in.

As my elected official, I trust that you will be able to see that some of your constituents have valid concerns about what Bill C-14 means for Canada. I’m not yet 30, and have my whole life ahead of me, but what kind of future is Canada leaving for its young people if doctors are allowed to kill?

Thank you.

 

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