With the legalisation of euthanasia at federal level, the end-of-life legal landscape in Canada has changed dramatically. Academics are calling on government authorities to closely monitor the enforcement of new legislation.
In a new article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Harvey Chochinov and Catherine Frazee discuss certain difficulties in regulating the practice of euthanasia.
“The choice of a grievously ill person to hasten an imminent death happens privately and out of the media glare. But from a public policy perspective, questions remain. Will the practice be carefully regulated and monitored? Will it affect the fragile asymmetry of the patient–physician relationship? Will there be appropriate support for participating physicians and those who conscientiously object to participation? Will we glean insights about the nature of suffering that motivates requests for MAID?”
Chochinov and Frazee say that “the margins of the law” are already being tested.
“Some persons who are not eligible for MAID, notably those who are not dying, assert that they suffer intolerably and therefore deserve assistance to end their lives.”A challenge to the federal legislation was made just ten days after its passage, by a 25 year old woman with spinal muscular atrophy.
In 2005 Peter Singer confidently forecast the demise of the "sanctity of life" by 2040. His objections to the idea were mainly philosophical, but he cited two piece of evidence. One was the amazing success of a South Korean scientist named Hwang Woo-suk in creating embryonic stem cell lines. The other was the continuing advance of legal assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Within months, Hwang Woo-suk was exposed as one of the greatest scientific frauds of the last century. As for euthanasia, Singer could still be right (although fears do persist that it could become, in his words, a "holocaust)". One out of two is not an impressive result and does little to inspire confidence in his prediction.
But there is another problem with Singer's critique of the sanctity of life argument, as we report this week. A British bioethicist, David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, points out that it was not Christians who "invented" the sanctity of life, but Singer and his cronies. In a very thought-provoking article in The New Bioethics, he says that "sanctity of life" is just a straw man set up to label discredit arguments against Singer's "quality of life" approach. It is a controversial thesis which deserves to be debated.
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