Re: Physician-Assisted Death - A letter to the Federal Minister of Justice

11 February 2015
Hon. Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Dear Minister MacKay,

I am writing with deep concern over the recent Supreme Court of Canada (Court) decision in Carter v. Canada

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada intervened in the case and affirmed the position taken by the Government of Canada that the prohibition against assisted suicide and euthanasia was in place to preserve life and protect the vulnerable. While the Court recognized the sanctity of human life as “one of our most fundamental values,” we are deeply concerned that allowing assisted suicide and euthanasia will undermine our society’s commitment to this very value, a societal norm that undergirds our laws and social policy. It is for the public good, and in the interest of Canadian society, that this norm be respected and promoted.
We are also concerned that people will be put at risk by the creation of exemptions to the prohibition to assisted suicide, a prohibition intended to dissuade the practice of suicide and to protect vulnerable persons. 

By creating exceptions, we are saying that people in these situations are living life some of us in society believe is not worth living. With these exemptions, those who meet the criteria will be in a situation of making a choice between life and death; and choosing life when the health care system offers you death will place an added burden on those who may already feel they are a burden on their family and on the health care system. A person should never be placed in a situation where they feel the need to justify choosing to live.

The Court, reversing its previous decision in R. v. Rodriguez, has determined that the prohibition is unconstitutional and has given Parliament 12 months to amend the Criminal Code to allow for assisted suicide and euthanasia in some situations.

The time frame given by the Court is short, particularly with a federal election scheduled within the 12 months time period.  This decision and its implementation involves complex social, jurisdictional, medical, legal, professional and moral issues that require thorough study and deliberation, including the experience of other jurisdictions and the effectiveness of safeguards in protecting vulnerable persons.

In drafting legislation in accordance with the Court’s decision, we urge you to ensure that the practices of assisted suicide and euthanasia are only permissible within very strict parameters so as to minimally impair Canada’s commitment to the sanctity of human life and to protect the lives of vulnerable Canadians. We ask that judicial review be required to ensure the criteria and safeguards put in place are met.

It is also imperative to protect the freedom of conscience and religion of all medical practitioners, so that no one will be compelled to directly or indirectly participate in any procedure that violates their beliefs and conscience. Many practitioners do not consider assisted suicide or euthanasia to be medical care, and believe them to be in violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

In responding to the Court’s decision, we urge you to take every step necessary to preserve life and protect vulnerable persons.

Bruce J. Clemenger
President, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada