Thursday, July 16, 2009

Liberals Should Support Euthanasia

I'm fixated with the word "bold" lately when it comes to Liberal policy. One issue that lingers below the surface, but nobody dares address, is assisted suicide. This timidity, despite evidence of broad public support, not to mention underlying moral imperatives within a certain support of individual liberties.

It's a central thesis, which Liberals supposedly defend, a simple CHOICE. Beyond that, it's a very complicated issue in terms of the politics. Despite public support, assisted suicide is a hot button issue and any mainstream party that advocates assisted suicide risks controversy. But, in terms of standing for something, in terms of resonating and engaging, I say no risk no reward.

Three American states have already passed some form of assisted suicide. We've seen private member bills come forward in Canada, but mostly the debate is silent, nobody really wants to address. IMHO it's a pretty simple concept- you don't have to approve, but your perspective shouldn't impact somebody else's decision, it should be left to the individual, within a set of morally sound rules.

I want to see the Liberals add some "spice" to our national debate, rather than just playing it safe and over analyizing every position, to the point we delute, for fear of offending ANYONE. That's where a party gets lost, that's when it becomes mushy, because it measures electoral success with not making waves and offering "goodies". No question the formula works to some degree, but does it really? Canadians are bored with their neutered political process, gotcha over gonna, packaging over policy. In other words, the formula isn't working, because people aren't engaged, the stay at home in droves. Advocating something like assisted suicide is good policy from my point of view, but it's also "bold", within that defining and purposeful, something Liberals desperately need. There's a growing sense, which nobody can deny- voters are having more and more trouble defining just what exactly Liberals stand for. THIS issue conveys that in spades, a policy that's consistent with an overarching view of society and the role of the individual. It's a practical application of the theoretical.

I'm no fool, the mere mention of this idea within a circle of prominent Liberals and strategists would bring a host of cautions, avoidances. Some of the logic is sound, but you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that the public is sympathetic, it's an issue which people deal with in their lives, it's something they've considered and formed an opinion on. Will it offend subsets? Absolutely, but trying to be everything to everyone is a recipe for projected weakness, which loses in the end anyways. Further, if you do regional breakdowns, you'll find opinion is most sympathetic where it matters most to the Liberal cause, so the risk is less pronounced than first blush might suggest.

Anyways...

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

YES! Offer a new vision indeed. I too am surprised at the broad support on the blogs and comment sections for this. We need to bring a sense of purpose to the next election, such as choice for your life, a sense of moving forward again instead of dealing with petty things in petty ways.

The Mound of Sound said...

Points well taken but do you think the LPC could withstand the fury of every Catholic and evangelical cleric in the country?

KNB said...

Good post Steve. I just listened to a call in debate on this and the overwhelming majoority support the idea.

As MoS, mostly religious arguments on the other side.

Regardless, the over all thrust of your post is important.

Steve V said...

Mound

That's why nobody will touch it. The fury would elevate the policy to a central debate in the election. It's for that reason that I understand why people would call the proposition crazy, but despite the controversy, beyond philosophy, I still see electoral potential. People support assisted suicide, it's most pronounced in catholic Quebec. If you want to comfort yourself with political considerations, I don't think it's the landmine all the bluster suggests.

I ended my post with anyways, because I know the nervous nellies would win the day. That, in an of itself, is part of the problem with the current Liberal Party. Don't step on any toes...

Steve V said...

knb

Something like this is the practical application of what Ignatieff was expressing in Britain. If we want to re-energize the Liberal Party, then we have to bring something fresh to the table. Our chief liabilites right now, people don't have a sense of the party, they see at as nothing more than a vehicle consumed with power. When are people going to realize that we're strongest when we DARE. We've got the messenger now, so don't be afraid of past "adventures". Let this guy breathe and pound the table.

The Mound of Sound said...

Steve I support end of life assisted suicide and, as you know, I too am eagerly waiting for the LPC to take a bold stand on something.

Steve V said...

The funny thing about "bold", at this point it's required, to address our perceived liabilities. "Bold" is actually sound politics. This policy, debatable, but generally, it's a MUST in my mind.

Torontonian said...

In light of the recent passing of Sir Edward and Lady Downes, the subject needs further discussion now.

Here is a link to the Guardian's article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jul/16/assisted-suicide-edward-downes

KC said...

Good luck. The Liberal vote on C-15 was pretty clear evidence that the party isn't interested in being bold and taking stands on principle.

Anonymous said...

No worries MoS.

A wedge has been driven between the catholic and evangelical nuts. They can no longer work together according to conservatives.

lol

Proud Canadian said...

There's one point here that hasn't been mentioned,the potential of being abused. Just like every domain there are always some bad apples. You get some quack doctor who convinces the patient who is desperate for some good news that there is nothing that they can do and persuades them for assisted suicide. We later find out that what the patient had was curable. It would be then too late, don't you think? This isn't something that can be undone with Harry Potter's magic wand. So people really have to think long and hard about this. This is the danger.

Proud Canadian said...

It's the only problem that I have about assisted suicide "mistakes."

Steve V said...

C 15 was the perfect example of being so afraid of your shadow, you end up looking nowhere. And, there's a real, real lesson here for the Liberals. What did that vote get you? Seems to me, even after letting it pass, the Cons ending the session saying the Liberals were soft on crime, holding up this and that, the attacks didn't let up on bit. They're still going after us on the crime angle, no matter how much we cower, and this latest example is proof positive. I'd rather be criticized for taking a stand, than caving in and still being criticized.

I've said this before, the now confirmed momentum loss might cause some re-evaluations. In the end, the last few weeks might turn out to be a net positive, if we get more aggressive.

The Mound of Sound said...

The chance of mistake can be eliminated by the procedural safeguards enacted as part of Oregon's "Death with Dignity Act." The person seeking relief must go through a number of steps to verify the individual's terminal condition, state of mind and legitimate desire to end life.

http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/pas/

Steve V said...

Further to what Mound just said, that' sort of what I meant in the post with "within a set of morally sound rules."

The Mound of Sound said...

I thought I should add that Oregon's web site affords terrific insight into the process including the counselling involved, the qualifications for who is eligible under their act and so on. I would think that anyone who wishes to enter into this debate really spend some time examining Oregon's experience.

Koby said...

The Liberals need to look beyond the numbers and game out just how a this or that will play out. There is no question that based on the number of likely voters SSM was a looser for the Liberals. However, having the Conservatives defend a morally, and legally bankrupt position day after day for months on end was to the Liberals advantage. The process hurt the Conservatives more than their position helped.

I see some similarities here and that is one reason I urged the Liberals to pursue this issue for years. Any time the Liberals can enage the social cons in open debate should be welcome. Why anyone would think otherwise is beyond me. McVety and his ilk are pure gold.

Of course, I think the proposal to legalize pot has even more potential. Indeed, the thought of Conservatives droning on for months on end about "potent pot" and other reefer madness myths is almost too good to be true. Think of John Stewart shredding Stephen Harper and company on a regular basis. Yes he would cover such an issue.

Mushroom said...

Good luck in getting Dan McTeague to support this. Maybe we should cause a rupture in the Liberal party by expelling all the cultural wingnuts into the open arms of Stockwell Day and Jason Kenney.

This is what we should have done after the Outremont by-election loss in 2007. Re-position ourselves in the cultural war debate under Stephane Dion. We may give Harper a majority but the result is that the left becomes more energized in opposition to the point that the Obama phenomenon will destroy the right in Canada for the next two decades.

Enjoy the Liberal Party of Canada, a victim of the global disenchantment of all centre left democratic parties.

Steve V said...

This is timely.

The Mound of Sound said...

An interesting aspect that never gets mentioned comes out of Oregon's experience. It's reflected in the numbers of patients who, after the complex approval process, either never fill their prescriptions or get the drugs but never take them.

It turns out that a number of these non-suicides were people riven with anxiety of whether they would be able to handle the pain or indignities of dying and who wanted the comfort of knowing they could find relief if they reached that point where they truly could stand no more.

As their dying progressed they found themselves able to handle it and so never resorted to the safety valve that gave them such assurance and alleviated their fears.

What is also telling in the decade of records Oregon has kept is that, even with this option available to its terminally ill residents, it still is quite rarely used. I think they get fewer than a couple of hundred successful applicants per year out of which about 40% take any of the many opportunities made available to them not to go through with it.