Private Members Bill Likely: Svend Robinson Urges Free Vote on Assisted Suicide

(29 October 1997) — On 22 September 1997, New Democrat MP Svend Robinson held a press conference to draw attention once again to the issue of assisted suicide. Mr. Robinson shared with reporters the news that one of his constituents, Natverlal Thakore, 78, had killed himself in Detroit with the assistance of Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

As in many other assisted suicides, disability was an issue in this case as well. Mr. Thakore had Parkinson's disease.

"I believe it is fundamentally inhuman and cruel that [Mr. Thakore] was not able to fulfill his own wishes for a dignified death in his own country with his family by his side," said Svend Robinson.

Mr. Robinson announced that he plans to introduce a private member's bill to legalize assisted suicide. This will be Robinson's third attempt to legalize assisted suicide. Mr. Robinson urged a free vote on assisted suicide.

Apparently Mr. Thakore left a note thanking Dr. Kevorkian. Activists within the community of persons with disabilities are hostile to Dr. Kevorkian, who openly conveys a disability phobic message.

"Kevorkian should be charged, prosecuted and convicted," states Catherine Frazee, a member of CCD's Human Rights Committee. "There is no shortage of evidence his participation in the premeditated killings of a staggering count of disabled persons."

"Kevorkian has been openly arrogant in acknowledging that the rationale for his actions is that the lives of people with disabilities have no value and that the rest of society will prosper and do better without us," Frazee points out.

Assisted suicide advocates like Robinson and Kevorkian are attempting to achieve a paradigm shift in our society. Wesley J. Smith in Forced Exit explains that our society has been operating according to the equality-of-human-life ethic and that assisted suicide advocates are attempting to replace this ethic.

Smith writes, "The equality of human life ethic requires that each of us be considered of equal inherent moral worth, and it makes the preservation and protection of human life society's first priority. Accepting euthanasia would replace the equality of human life ethic with a utilitarian and nihilistic "death culture" that views the intentional ending of certain human lives as an appropriate and necessary answer to life's most difficult challenges."

Smith describes for us how this paradigm shift will change our society: "If [assisted suicide is] accepted, we will have moved away from being a society that promotes improved medical and psychological care and emotional support as the proper response to a patient's desire to die to one that accepts killing as both appropriate and somehow compassionate. To state it dramatically but accurately, if euthanasia is legalized, doctors will be given a license to kill some of their patients and these patients will be given a legally enforceable right to be killed."

Smith has reviewed the literature of assisted suicide proponents and discovered some interesting revelations about who this movement sees as appropriate candidates for killing. He writes, "Advocacy in favor of assisted suicide "only" for the terminally ill is already passé among euthanasia advocates. Legalizing hastened death is now promoted for the "hopelessly ill", or "desperately ill", as well as the dying. The "hopelessly ill" are disabled people, those with chronic illness, the frail elderly. Some "rationale suicide" proponents advocate including those with severe mental or emotional problems who have no physical illness."

Smith is an American and as such much of his writing draws upon the experience in that country. However, Canada is not too far behind the United States in its approach to assisted suicide.

The position of the New Democratic Party of Canada is a case in point. During the 1997 election, Party Leader Alexa McDonough informed CCD that, "The 1995 federal NDP Convention passed a resolution calling for a law to allow physician assisted suicide in situations of acute terminal conditions, irreversible chronic conditions causing irremediable suffering, and chronic conditions causing irresolvable anguish. The resolution calls for the design of legislation to protect the vulnerable and ensure compassionate care."

The disability phobic mindset of the nondisabled world would prompt many people without disabilities to define many disabilities as "irreversible chronic conditions causing irremediable suffering, and chronic conditions causing irresolvable anguish." People with disabilities do not take the same negative viewpoint and people with severe multiple disabilities report contentment with their lives.

Advocates of assisted suicide attempt to allay concerns by giving a cursory nod to safeguards. CCD does not believe that it would be possible to create truly effective safeguard measures and none of the measures presented to date to legalize assisted suicide have contained safeguards that have quashed CCD's concerns in this regard.

MLPD Hosts Community Event

On 6 October 1997, the Manitoba League of People with Disabilities held a public meeting attended by 35 community members. The purpose of the meeting was to raise awareness about the upcoming trial of Robert Latimer, to convey information about death-making activities which are becoming prevalent in our society and to inform Manitobans about plans to establish a Tracy Latimer Memorial Monument. Jim Derksen, Paula Keirstead, David Martin and Laurie Beachell spoke.

A variety of viewpoints were shared during the meeting. One consumer urged participants not to forget Tracy and that her life was taken from her. Another participant encouraged disability organizations to hold an event which would celebrate the joy that people with disabilities experience in their lives.