Demonstration outside courthouse links assisted suicide and elder abuse
By Brent Mattson
The B.C. Catholic
VANCOUVER--The battle to legalize physician assisted suicide and euthanasia was thrust upon the B.C. Supreme Court Nov. 14.
The right to die war raged on the steps of the Howe St. courthouse, when dozens of protesters gathered to voice their opposition to a court challenge aimed at legalizing assisted suicide in Canada.
Spearheaded by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition-B.C. (EPC-BC), life-minded advocates held signs with slogans such as “Assisted suicide is a recipe for elder abuse.”
The court will hear from witnesses called by five plaintiffs, including the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, and Gloria Taylor, a sufferer of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Dr. Will Johnston, president of the EPC-BC, says the demonstration pointed out that legal euthanasia leads to the loss of individual rights and an increase in elder abuse. He says the success of the demonstration came from the passion of its attendees.
“On a chilly, windy morning at 9:30 a.m., it was great to see so many people standing up against legal euthanasia and assisted suicide,” he says. “It was very blustery and cold, but people care about it and want to make sure this doesn’t come to be.”
Another demonstrator, Mark Penninga, was pleased with the media turnout and their eagerness to hear the protestors’ perspectives on the case.
“Having 70 people stand on the steps of the B.C. Supreme Court served as a powerful witness to the media that young and old alike are concerned about the attempt to legalize euthanasia,” he says.
Believing the case will reach the Supreme Court of Canada, Penninga says it was important for people to voice their concerns on the first day of hearings.
“This is a loud and clear message that the issue is no different than when Parliament voted against it a year ago and the Supreme Court ruled against it 20 years ago.”
Elder abuse can be physical, psychological, or financial abuse of seniors, and is often perpetrated by those closest to them.
Johnston, who is also a family doctor, says this civil court challenge to legalize assisted suicide would definitely open new paths to elder abuse.
“A more obvious path is due to the lack of oversight at the time of administration (of assisted suicide),” he says. “There is no requirement for witnesses or any other direct supervision. This situation creates an opportunity for the family member to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent. Even if he struggled, who could know?”
Johnston adds that elder abuse is already hard to detect, and it would only get worse once lives were on the line.
"Under current law, abusers take their victims to the bank and to the lawyer for a new will,” he says. “With legal assisted suicide, the next stop would be the doctor’s office for a lethal prescription. How exactly are we going to detect the victimization when we can’t do it now?"
The EPC is asking their supporters to sign a petition voicing opposition to legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide. It is available at www.epcbc.ca.