If the politicians change the law, will the law change the politics?
‘Safeguards’ inevitably involve making a choice and setting boundaries. They point to one person and say yes, you can have this right, to another and say no. Therefore, as soon as you accept the logic that some patients should have a healthcare right to take a lethal cocktail for themselves (assisted suicide), it arguably becomes discrimination to deny that same fatal dose of medication to another group of patients who meet the ‘safeguards’ but who need a doctor to administer it for them (euthanasia). Principles of equality suggest that it should be available for all. All it needs is the ‘right case’ to challenge the law in court.
Canada legalised assisted suicide and euthanasia through its ‘Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)’ legislation in 2016. In 2019, the Quebec Superior Court struck down one of the original ‘safeguards’, the requirement that a person be terminally ill and approaching death before qualifying for euthanasia. Canadian politicians were given a short time limit to change the law to comply with the judgment.
However, Canada’s euthanasia law has now been extended and expanded far beyond even what was required by the court judgment. On the basis that restricting access to assisted suicide is discriminatory, other ‘safeguards’ have collapsed too. People suffering solely from psychological suffering or mental illnesses will be able to have their deaths facilitated by the state. The Canadian law used to require that doctors obtain confirmation of a patient’s wishes shortly before the lethal drugs are administered but now, doctors or nurse practitioners will be able to lethally inject a person who is incapable of consenting so long as that person had been previously approved. Mandatory waiting periods have even been removed in some circumstances.
The sad lesson from Canada is that if ‘safeguards’ are deemed to be discriminatory, it is impossible for them not to collapse in the future. It is only a matter of time.