We Need to Protect the Vulnerable, Not Facilitate Their Death

December 19, 2020 Updated: December 21, 2020

Commentary

In September 2019, one judge in one lower court in one province (Quebec) decided that a medically assisted death should be available to people who are not dying. Now, the federal government’s Bill C-7, if it passes, will change the law for all Canadians who are chronically ill or disabled—including those who in addition have a mental health disorder—based on this one court case.

All in the name of autonomy and confidentiality, your loved one could seek and access a medically assisted death (MAiD) without your knowledge. You may not be given a chance to help your loved one change their mind or relieve their suffering by other means.

How dare this government talk of equity of access to ending one’s life when there is no equity of access to standard of care treatment. There is no equity of access to psychiatric care, to a pain clinic, or to palliative care. Most Canadians have to wait months or even more than a year to access some of these, and have absolutely no access to others. Who is being held responsible for allowing Canadians to suffer because of this lack of standard care? And who will be held responsible for allowing Canadians to seek and receive an early death as a result of their suffering that has not been relieved due to this lack of care?

This proposed law places the responsibility for protection of the vulnerable squarely on the shoulders of doctors and other health professionals. Research has brought to light that medical errors are already a significant cause of death and disability in Canada, and most of these errors go unreported let alone prosecuted. Are we to then rely on an already strained medical system to protect our vulnerable Canadians who could be at risk of unfair application of MAiD? Are we to rely on a strained medical system to determine if our loved ones are capable of making a free and autonomous decision on ending their life early? What use is it to seek legal action when one’s loved one is already dead from a lethal injection? I would hope that those who care would have had the ability to help them prior to death, but this legislation will force facilitation of death instead.

Legislators need to consider the tremendous moral angst this bill will cause physicians and other health-care practitioners by mandating that they are involved in the death of those they care for when they know there are treatments and have seen good prognoses with most diseases that now qualify for MAiD.

Thinking about how Bill C-7 will affect my practice, my patients, and medicine in general in the future has caused me a lot of distress. I do not want to abandon my patients but I will not violate my conscience. If forced, I will exercise my freedom by giving up practising primary care medicine because I will not be able to continue practising medicine in the way I believe is in the best interest of my patients and my community. If this bill becomes law, I am sure many other physicians and health-care workers across this country will be faced with this same decision and many may choose to find different types of work. Is this the kind of future we as Canadians want?

When I brought up these concerns with my MP, Randall Garrison, they were ignored. I urge all Canadians to wake up and fight for safeguards for this life-ending legislation and protection of everyone’s rights and freedoms.

Dr. Cynthia Barco is a family physician in Victoria, British Columbia.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.