Suicide Prevention or Assisted Suicide?

October 12, 2011 09:00 AM

On October 4, Liberal Party interim leader, Bob Rae, introduced a motion into Canada’s House of Commons to establish a National Suicide Prevention Strategy. It was supported by the ruling Conservatives. This cooperative agreement was good to see—especially about a tragic matter like suicide.

LOSS OF LIFE

As Mr. Rae stated, each day in Canada, ten people will die by their own hand. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents. Men between the ages of 25-29 and 40-45 years are also particularly vulnerable to suicide. Suicide rates amongst aboriginal populations are a national scandal! Other groups that are disproportionately affected are the elderly, inmates in prisons, and the mentally ill. Bob Rae stated that suicide is a result of mental illness. I agree, but assisted suicide proponents are apt to disagree. They like to promote the ridiculous myth of “rational suicide.” 

ASSISTING SUICIDE

A legal challenge is being mounted by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association against Canada’s laws prohibiting assisted suicide. They are acting, in part, for the family of euthanasia activist Kay Carter who developed spinal stenosis and went to Switzerland for assisted suicide, and ALS sufferer Gloria Taylor (63) who also wants assisted suicide. If the legal challenge is successful and Canada’s laws against assisted suicide are struck down, how will a National Suicide Prevention Strategy work and for whom will it be intended?

TO HELL WITH DEMOCRACY!

Last year, a euthanasia/assisted suicide bill (C-384) was soundly defeated in Canada's Parliament. Not to be deterred, the euthanasia/assisted suicide lobby simply changed their approach. If they could not win by democratic means, they will try and ram their agenda through Canada's activist courts.

Assisted suicide advocates say people should have the right to decide the time and place of their death. Really? Wouldn’t a suicide prevention strategy interfere will that so-called right? Assisted suicide proponents will initially say that assisted suicide would only be for the terminally and incurably ill with unbearable pain who want to die. Well, are we are talking about physical pain? With modern pain management, it is now possible for virtually complete pain relief.

DIFFERENT PAINS 

A person suffering severe clinical depression or mental illness may say that their emotional pain is as bad or worse than physical pain, therefore they should be helped with their suicide. Who are you or I to say their emotional pain is not as bad as physical pain? I have been chronically ill and disabled with aggressive multiple sclerosis (MS) for more than 27 years. I have suffered physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. It is my experience and opinion that physical pain is easiest to reach and treat. Emotional and spiritual pain are far worse torments.

So we may soon have a dilemma: If the euthanasia/assisted suicide are correct and people should have a right to choose the time and place of their deaths, then establishing a National Suicide Prevention Strategy will contravene this new so-called right. If a National Suicide Prevention Strategy is Canada's response to suicide, then there must be no place in law or public policy for assisted suicide. There is a third part to this dilemma that is much darker and prejudiced against the sickest Canadians.

INTOLERABLE CHASM 

If a National Suicide Prevention Strategy can exist beside tolerance for assisted suicides of the terminally and chronically ill or the severely disabled, then an intolerable chasm will be created between protecting some Canadians' lives but not other Canadians. 

If the call for a National Suicide Prevention Strategy is part of a larger goal for establishment of a National Palliative Care Strategy (and I hope it is) then I call upon the federal government to prepare to strengthen laws against assisted suicide and enact social policy to support cross-jurisdictional cooperation for a larger National Palliative Care strategy. 

If the upcoming challenge to Canada's law against assisted suicide is successful in British Columbia, then I call upon Canada's Minister of Justice to appeal the decision right up to the Supreme Court of Canada. If every avenue of appeal proves unsuccessful then the federal government must prepare to enact new laws against assisted suicide that will withstand future challenges.

EQUAL PROTECTIONS 

Either all Canadians deserve the protection of suicide prevention strategies or we will create a new lesser class of citizens—the incurably ill and disabled. I need to know that because I will be part of the new under-class of Canadian citizen undeserving of the benefits of a National Suicide Prevention Strategy. Yes, I will hear the message loud and clear that the lives of the sick and disabled are worth less than the lives of healthy Canadians. I am not the only incurably ill Canadian who will hear that message.

Mark Pickup is chronically ill and disabled with degenerative multiple sclerosis. He is an advocate for life issues and disability inclusion across North America. He and his wife, LaRee, have been married for 38 years. They live in Alberta Canada with their two adult children and five grandchildren. Mark is available to address issues of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and issues revolving around suffering that often fuel calls for euthanasia. He writes regularly at http://markpickup.org and http://humanlifematters.org. For bookings, contact him by e-mail at or telephone (780) 929-9230. Mark Pickup's bi-weekly column can be read in the Western Catholic Reporter (Canada) at http://www.wcr.ab.ca/.

This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at http://markpickup.org/2011/10/on-october-4-th-liberal-party-interim.html.

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