Assisted Suicide & Euthanasia

What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia is the act of intentionally, knowingly and directly causing the death of a patient. If someone other than the person who dies performs the last act, euthanasia has occurred.

For example, if a person administers a lethal injection or puts a plastic bag over a patient’s head to suffocate him/her, euthanasia has taken place.

Euthanasia is sometimes called “aid-in-dying,” “mercy killing,” “death with dignity,” etc.

Euthanasia is NOT

  • Respecting a person’s wish to refuse or stop a treatment that is of no benefit
  • Withdrawing or withholding a treatment from a person who is dying when the burden outweighs the benefit
  • Giving drugs to relieve pain if an unintended effect is to shorten a dying person’s life.   It is important to remember that euthanasia must involve the specific intent to end a person’s life.
  • Withdrawing “extraordinary care” (medical procedures in which the burden outweighs the benefit; means that are dangerous or above and beyond standard and reasonable means to preserve life to its natural end). Example:  Cancer victim receives chemotherapy several times, finds it ineffective, and doctor respects the wish of the patient to forgo the treatment in order to avoid side effects.

What is Assisted Suicide?

Assisted suicide is the act of intentionally, knowingly and directly providing the means of death to another person so that the person can use that means to commit suicide.  If the person who dies performs the last act, assisted suicide has occurred.

For example, if a doctor writes a prescription for an intentional overdose of drugs for a patient to use to commit suicide and if the patient who dies performs the last act (the act of swallowing), assisted suicide has taken place.

Assisted-suicide is sometimes called “aid-in-dying,” “death with dignity,” “physician-assisted death,” etc.

We believe that neither consent nor motive changes the reality that both assisted suicide and euthanasia involve killing another human being.  Killing the patient should never be the treatment for suffering.

What is the law in Canada concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide?

Canada legalized medical assistance in dying (euthanasia) in June 2016, and although accompanied by many safeguards, the legislation declared that Canadians have a constitutional right to physician-assisted death.

Concerns Related to the Law*

  • There is a growing tendency to promote “mercy killing” as a solution to suffering, pain, aging, mental or physical challenges, social ills, rising health costs and cost containment.
  • Sanctioning of euthanasia and assisted suicide (as in the Netherlands) has led to increased use of euthanasia without consent, circumvention of the law, and abuse of the vulnerable.
  • Advances in hospice/palliative care and pain management methods are threatened when euthanasia and assisted suicide are sanctioned as a means of relieving pain and suffering.
  • The medical profession need more instruction and the public needs more education regarding hospice/palliative care and effective pain control.
  • Depression is the most common factor in requests for assisted suicide.  Depression can be diagnosed and treated successfully.  Requests for assisted suicide is a call for help.

* Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Related links:

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation

Not Dead Yet

Canadian Physicians for Life

Useless Eaters

Human Life Matters

Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation