COLUMN: Kinsella – Assisted suicide ruling is all wrong

- June 24th, 2012

British Columbia court ruling is a dying shame

by Warren Kinsella

VANCOUVER - Cementing its reputation as the place where wild-eyed legal decisions are given the fullest possible expression, a British Columbia court last week decided to turn Canadian law on its head.

Matters of life and death, too.

As you may have heard, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith ruled laws prohibiting assisted suicide were “discriminatory,” and gave an ailing B.C. woman the green light to kill herself with the help of her doctors.

Everyone else looking to kill themselves, however, will have to wait a year. Smith decided to give Parliament 12 months to get its laws in congruence with, you know, her view of things.

A 64-year-old Okanagan Valley resident, Gloria Taylor, suffering from ALS, was given a “constitutional exemption” from the law, which came as a surprise to those of us who laboured under the view that the Constitution did not permit “exemptions.”

Getting in on the polling business, the B.C. judge proclaimed there existed “a strong societal consensus about the extremely high value of human life, (but) public opinion is divided regarding physician-assisted death.”

Actually, it isn’t. Surveys, such as they are, tell us Canadians overwhelmingly favour “assisted suicide” — which is The Mother of All Oxymorons, if you ask me — and, based on how leading Ottawa journalists (Andrew Coyne, Paul Wells, et al.) recently mocked the fate of Jun Lin, the alleged victim of Luka Magnotta, I wouldn’t necessarily agree we place “extremely high value on human life,” either.

But Smith’s judgment, unfortunately, is the law. It joins a long line of other B.C. legal rulings that prove, inarguably, that the judicial nuts do indeed roll into the judicial corners.

Religious points of view about Smith’s 400-page judgment are predictable and unnecessary. There are a sufficient number of secular arguments against “assisted suicide” to persuade sensible politicians to recognize that Smith’s judgment will lead us into perilous waters.

Thus, euthanasia for the “terminally ill” is hazardous because we don’t possess a working a definition of terminal. Jack Kevorkian, the “Dr. Death” who killed dozens of Americans until his own (perhaps timely) passing, defined terminal as “any disease that curtails life even for a day.”

Even a day? In the pro-death crowd, that’s actually considered conservative. The co-founder of the Hemlock Society defines it as “terminal old age.” Others declare a person terminal when death will occur in a “relatively short time.”

Given that we all start to die the moment we are born, you can perhaps see the problem here. One man’s terminal is another man’s weeks, or months, or years.

As a liberal, I have another problem with terminating those who are “terminal.” The overriding theme in every discussion of health care, nowadays, is cost. Politicians and bureaucrats — conservative ones in particular — are always obsessively looking for ways to contain health-care expenditures.

So, for example, after the passage of Oregon’s Measure 16 — which legalized assisted suicide — the state’s leading health bureaucrat declared such measures would be paid for as “comfort care” under the Oregon Health Plan. Which, coincidentally enough, provides medical coverage for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who are poor.

Months later, Oregon then announced plans to cut back on health-care coverage for poor citizens. Offing the poor? Funded. Helping them get better? Not.

One of the principal arguments against “assisted suicide,” however, came to me from my father, who — before his death eight years ago this month — received the Order of Canada for his writings about euthanasia.

“I’m a doctor,” he said to me and some of my buddies one evening at the supper table. “I went to school to save lives, not end them. Will the state now start funding schools where students receive training in killing supposedly sick people?”

Good question. I doubt Justice Lynn Smith has an answer, however.

Categories: Politics

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4 comments

  1. 2pack says:

    I’ve had the undesirable opportunity to witness the prolonged passing of several persons in the past 18 months. I suppose I’m just at that age and time is running out. The suffering I’ve witnessed is not humanitarian. Family members who have survived the patients are the ones who truly endure extreme anguish. The patients themselves were so totally medicated that they knew nothing of their existence. All that was left was a body gasping for breath. We put down our animals which are suffering, justifying the act as humanitarian. Pity we haven’t the courage to do that for ourselves. I know that I personally would prefer dignity in my own death.

  2. Alain says:

    Thank you for the excellent article. If someone wants to commit suicide that is his or her business, although I think it wrong to do so. Forcing someone else to do the deed however is a totally different matter, and that is what this ruling calls for. One need not be religious to understand what a slippery slope this is. Just check out what has actually happened in every place that has legalised “assisted suicide”. Furthermore, involving the sate is dangerous, since the state seldom gets things right, since bureaucrats end up making the decisions.

  3. Rena says:

    I challenge you, Mr. Kinsella to live without quality of life; not being able to bathe yourself, or wipe yourself. To live in 24hour pain, knowing you are just wasting time until you die and not having the ability to do anything about it. Live with an illness that takes away your cognative and physical abilities…THEN…AND ONLY THEN DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPRESS AN OPINION ON THIS SUBJECT! I have been there and I wish with all my heart and soul that Doctor assisted death will be approved before it is my time to go.

  4. KimG says:

    You would euthanize a terminally ill or severely injured animal because it is inhumane to keep them alive and suffering…..why on earth would you let another human being suffer for the same thing? Isn’t that inhumane too? As far as I am concerned if the person wishing to be euthanized is competent enough and is in their right mind then they should have that right. You feel empathy for someone who commits suicide by their own hand but what about those who cannot end their suffering by their own hands?

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