The legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada could reduce the level of care available to those with terminal illnesses, two Ottawa doctors warn.Hopefully, Members of Parilament that are still undecided (or that are leaning towards supporting the bill) take those arguments in consideration when a vote on C-384 actually takes place.
"We need to improve care, not terminate it," Dr. Jose Pereira told reporters at a news conference Thursday.
He said he is concerned about a private member's bill to legalize euthanasia after his experience in Switzerland, which already allows the practice.
While working at a hospital in Geneva, Pereira said, he noticed that a few months after the hospital began offering assisted suicide, community-based palliative care services were shut down and the number of palliative-care physicians at the hospital was reduced.
Pereira's concerns were echoed by Dr. Jean Bartkowiak, president and CEO at Bruyère.
"We must not abandon these vulnerable people through assisted suicide and euthanasia, but instead embark on a quest to find better ways to maintain their dignity and quality of life," he said. He added that hears daily about patients recovering from dire situations, and said people should never lose hope.
Pereira said there are "serious flaws" in the bill:
He added that other jurisdictions have found it hard to put in "foolproof safeguards" to prevent people who don't meet the criteria — such as people with depression — to be eligible for euthanasia,
- It isn't limited to people with terminal illnesses, but also mental illnesses.
- It allows people to refuse appropriate treatment and choose euthanasia.
- It doesn't define "terminal."
- It allows people to consent to assisted suicide if they appear to be lucid, a qualification Pereira said is "too ambiguous."
Pereira also expressed concerns about what legalizing euthanasia would mean for doctors.
"It's taking a way the right of most physicians to say, 'No, this is not something that we do.'"
Friday, October 2, 2009
Dr. Jose Pereira, a University of Ottawa professor and the head of the university's palliative-care program, explains his concerns about bill C-384: