Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bill C-407 - Euthanasia in the Law

As mentioned in a previous post, the 'slippery slope' argument remains a compelling piece of anti-euthanasia rhetoric (If you can't tell by now, this author is pro-euthanasia). However, in many countries, it appears that they have over come their own logical fallacies and aversions regarding the discussion of death related issues.

The Netherlands for instance became the first country to legalize euthanasia in 2002 and have since then enacted strict legal requirements surrounding it. I think it suffieces to say that their society has not fallen apart, there has been no mass killings of unwanted persons, and there appears to be no indication of one in the future. 

Even if there was an inclination in the populace to use euthanasia as a scapegoat in this manner, the strict legal standards surrounding its usage in the Netherlands would likely prevent it. A brief summary of these standards is provided here:

The basics requirements to perform euthanasia on someone are as follows:

The patient must have already been in the doctor's care for a period of time.

The patient's suffering is unbearable, and she or he has no hope of recovery.

The patient makes a deliberate and voluntary request that she or he has discussed thoroughly with the doctor.

The doctor consults a colleague who agrees that these criteria have been met .

This general model provided the basis for a similar Belgian law regarding euthanasia and it has been argued by many that it could serve a similar purpose in Canada. This author was going to explore the possibilities of applying this basic framework to the Canadian system, however, after some extensive research, it was found that a bill on euthanasia has already been authored and presented in Parliment. Although the bill died after extensive debate (its death was largely accredited to the vagueness of its wording), it still may be used as a useful model for the Canadian system and provides a plausible reference point for current policy.

If the reader would like to read this bill they can go to the following website:

This particular piece of legislation was designed to amend section 241 and 14 of the Canadian Criminal Code (Read "An Introduction - Euthanasia in the Law" for details on these sections). This particular amendment is extremely similar to the law currently enforced in the Netherlands on most respects. However, there are two significant areas in which the proposed amendment differed. They are: 1) the Netherlands allowed minors (12 and up) to request euthanasia while the Canadian amendment required that the individual be an adult and 2) it appears that the Netherlands required the supervising medical professional to have been acquainted  with the case for a period of time, while no such stipulation existed in Bill C-407. 

Several other significant aspects of Bill C-407 will be dissected in future posts (in addition to the two issues raised above). The purpose of this entry was merely to introduce the reader to one of the proposed alternative policies that has already been presented in Canada. However, I would like to leave the reader with a thought regarding the significance of the introduction of such a bill in Canadian parliament. 

I believe that the introduction of this bill and others like it in the western world represents a fundamental shift in the attitudes of civilians towards euthanasia. We are beginning to re-examine the fit between our medically advanced culture, one that can keep people "alive" beyond the possibility of 'life', and the archaic laws that we put into place generations ago. This transformation is obviously going to be a painful one, fraught with casualty, however, it is beyond necessary. This bill represents the beginnings of a greater sensitivity on the part of the law towards the needs of individual Canadian citizens when it comes to how they define living and the life worth living. Although it was not passed, we can all bet that this issue has not been put to rest by any measure, and that some new alternate form of this bill will soon make an appearance in parliament. 

No comments: