Alex Schadenberg to speak at U of T this Wednesday

We’re hosting Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, in the Senior Common Room at St. Michael’s College this Wednesday from 6-8pm for a talk on euthanasia and assisted suicide. These issues have taken centre stage recently with Bill C-384 and Motion 388 being debated in parliament, so this is the perfect opportunity to get up to speed.

This week, we’ll be putting a special focus on euthanasia and assisted suicide on the blog. I’ll kick off the mini-series with an article that recently appeared in the Catholic Register, Euthanasia is not appropriate care:

It was bound to happen but it nonetheless came as a shock to hear doctors endorse the position that, when other treatments fail, it may sometimes be acceptable to simply kill the patient.

In effect, that is the position of the Quebec College of Physicians in a policy paper that says euthanasia can be an ethical and viable option for doctors when a patient, facing “imminent and inevitable” death, is suffering extreme pain. As put by one doctor: “We are saying death can be an appropriate type of care in certain circumstances.

Death as an appropriate type of care? There are times it seems we’ve fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole and the Mad Hatter is writing the headlines. Surely, death can no more be an appropriate type of care than black can be an acceptable shade of white. Or, as Dr. Tim Lau told The Register: “To call the killing of your patients a treatment will turn medicine on its head.”


To suggest death is an appropriate type of care is the height of doublespeak. Death is the antithesis of care. But language is powerful. Terms such as “pro-choice” and “death with dignity” have been wielded effectively to win votes in the seemingly never-ending erosion of society’s respect for life. Now comes “death by caring.” History has shown the first step on a slippery slope is often preceded by a turn of phrase.

Euthanasia proponents argue that many doctors are in effect already euthanizing patients when they provide terminally ill people in extreme pain analgesics that sometimes cause heart or respiratory failure. But that is a red herring. Providing pain relief that, as a secondary result, causes death is not euthanasia. If the intent of a treatment is pain relief, not death, then the church and the Criminal Code agree that euthanasia has not occurred. But a doctor who prescribes medication to intentionally cause death is defying Canadian law and the code of ethics of the Canadian Medical Association.

(Note: the article is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license, hence the ease in quoting a large portion of it.)

The debate on Bill C-384 is set to resume in parliament next month. Come out to our lecture on Wednesday evening to learn more about this important topic.

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