June 7, 1993 (34th Parliament, 3rd Session)

LIB

Don Boudria (Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition; Liberal Party Deputy House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Don Boudria (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell):

Mr. Speaker, as I begin my remarks I notice some of the members presently in the House. I see at least two members who are medical graduates. I see a former teacher of nursing. I see former clergymen and a number of others. All I am sure are interested in this topic.
I want to take a moment to talk about this issue of euthanasia. It is an issue about which I have very profound feelings. Euthanasia is so-called mercy killing. Presumably under certain conditions it would be seen as being merciful. It also means a good death.
By definition, that kind of a death must then be potentially good. Those who are in favour of it are in favour of merciful killing and good death. Obviously those of us who are against it presumably do not want all these good and merciful things. One can see how quickly one can fall into that trap, particularly when all of this only rests on the abuse of a few words in the dictionary.
Until recently euthanasia was not even legal in a country such as Holland. We all know that Holland practises more euthanasia than any other country on the face of the earth. It has one-quarter of Canada's population and up to 12,000 people per year are sent to premature death in that country.
On February 9, 1993 the Dutch parliament formally adopted so-called voluntary euthanasia. A week later a Dutch justice department spokesperson, Liesbeth Rens-man, told the Associated Press that legislators would be studying the effect of this voluntary euthanasia law for three months. This would be done to "see what happens and how careful physicians are, then perhaps there could be regulation for killing without request". If you do not think we are on a slippery slope when we discuss this issue, think again.
I want to speak about the medical profession in all of this. First it is important to remind everyone that we are not talking about patients who refuse medical treatment. In fact that is already protected by section 265 of the Criminal Code and a colleague who invoked that as a reason for euthanasia was obviously wrong. That is already covered in the Criminal Code. We are talking about giving physicians the right to kill, pure and simple, albeit under certain conditions.
In the sixth century BC, the Greek philosopher Hippocrates wrote a note to which physicians are still bound today. It states in part: "I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest such counsel". In modem times, that particular Hippocratic oath has been rewritten as the declaration of Geneva. The declaration of Geneva repeats the same idea in different words.

Physicians have operated under these oaths for 2,500 years. These oaths are there because patients need the assurance that a doctor's only raison d'etre is to make them better, never to make them worse. Doctors operate under the motto: First do no harm. What would euthanasia do to all that? What would it do to the trust that exists between a patient and a doctor?
I never question my doctor's intention, none of us do. If we did for just the slightest moment, obviously we would change physicians. Most of us never change physicians. We have the same physician for years and years. Why do we do that? Because we trust physicians. We sometimes agree or disagree with a particular treatment they might have given us. We have never ever asked ourselves: Is my physician there to do me good or harm? We take it as a given that the physician's role will always be to make it better. I do not want to see that eroded.
I want to talk a bit about the slippery slope. Dr. Robert Conot, the author of Justice at Nuremberg, has reminded us of what can happen when a society allows itself to be guided by strictly utilitarian rather than humanitarian principles.
In Weimar, Germany, not Nazi Germany, the mentally and physically ill were entitled to the so-called favour of painless death. This principle was subsequently extended to other useless eaters, including residents of homes for the aged. The Nazis then extended the concept afterward to include Jews, Slavs and others who they felt were not useful to the party in power. That is how it began in that particular country.
How did that society slide that way? To quote Dr. Conot: "Theirs"-the Nazis-"was no plunge to damnation from conscious decision but a step-by-step descent into darkness, each step marking a small erosion of ethics and morality". That is how they slid into that.
Some members in this House might disagree with me about the slippery slope, but then what? I believe that euthanasia would still be wrong because it cheapens human life.
Only a few days ago we learned through the media that a Dutch psychiatrist was acquitted after injecting a depressed patient with a lethal substance. How could we tell our fellow citizens that murder is wrong if we were to
Private Members' Business
permit doctors to do it? How could we tell our young and emotionally fragile citizens that suicide is wrong and that life is precious if we allow life to be destroyed in this kind of a cavalier manner?
The Criminal Code of Canada forbids aiding, counselling or assisting a suicide. I believe it does so because the absence of such rules would erode the patient-doctor trust, as I said previously, but it does so as well because killing is wrong.
There is even a third reason. I want to quote from a reference made in report No. 58 of the Law Reform Commission which states: "The law does not exist for the sole or primary purpose of punishing illicit acts. It exists as an expression in a broad sense of the kind of people that we are. It does not merely regulate our behaviour; it articulates and symbolizes our values and our beliefs". That is why there is that prohibition in the Criminal Code.
Even if members disagree with me as to the other reasons, even if they do not think there is a slippery slope in spite of the evidence to the contrary, even if they do not believe that Holland exists as a nation with its experience in spite of evidence to the contrary, then I hope that all of us could surely agree that the reason the law is there is to state those things we think are valuable.
Some will say: "It is easy for you, Boudria. Maybe you have not lived with this very much". Actually about a year and a week ago my wife lost her mother to terminal cancer. A year almost to the day before, I lost my father as a result of a malignant brain tumour. That certainly was not easy, but that does not mean I now favour euthanasia. It means quite the opposite. It means that I understand even better how precious and fragile life is.
Collectively and individually we must make statements in this House about the value and dignity of human life. We must not say things to cheapen it any more than it has been already.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   CRIMINAL CODE
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