Protestors stage a demonstration against euthanasia near the French Senate in Paris, which is debating a law proposal that would legalise the practice, January 25, 2011.
Credits: REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen
OTTAWA -- Terminally ill Canadians should be allowed to get doctors to help them die - and the government should regulate it - a panel of experts has suggested in a report commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada.
"Assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia should be legally permitted for such competent individuals who make free and informed choices that their life is not worth living, to them," said Udo Schuklenk, a bioethicist from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., and report authors.
"Canada should have a permissive yet carefully regulated and monitored system with respect to assisted death."
The doctors, scientists and ethicists spent two years examining end of life issues in Canada, and insist their recommendations would not lead to coersed euthanasia.
Some who oppose euthanasia worry a government regulated death system could be a slippery slope and lead to the deaths of those with medical burdens, the elderly, and those with disabilities.
"Those are certainly real risks. In fact, they will happen if we legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide," Dr. Margaret Somerville, bioethicist with McGill University, told Ezra Levant on his show, The Source, on Sun News Network on Tuesday.
While she said suicide alone is a purely personal decision, it is the involving of others, society and government that is wrong.
Somerville warns the Netherlands has had forms of euthanasia and assisted suicide since 1974, and the initially strict rules have since been loosened.
"You can have euthanasia if you are just mentally ill, not physically ill, there is estimated a minimum of 500 cases a year where the person is incompetent but is euthanized, so you are not getting informed consent," Somerville said. "(The Netherlands) allows parents to request disabled newborn babies be euthanized, so far they have euthanized 22 babies with spina bifida - you just can't hold these lines, once they are crossed."
The B.C. Supreme Court is hearing a case from a Kelowna woman who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. She wants her doctor to be permitted to end her life before she becomes unable to move. ALS is the same degenerative and deadly disease Sue Rodriguez was afflicted with as she fought for euthanasia laws to be changed in the early 1990s. She died by suicide in 1994.