What is lacking on this file isn't public mood, but political courage, primarily because you unearth a hornet's nest. Any polling I've seen shows majority support for euthanasia as an available option. There is also a great degree of "institutional" support, from those that deal with the complexities in their profession. In fact, the political realm is a lagging indicator, when one considers where the public is on this issue. I proposed supporting euthanasia a couple of months ago, and I believe it merits further consideration, in light of recent events:
Amending the Criminal Code to make euthanasia legal in Canada would likely gain the support of three-quarters of Quebec's medical specialists, says a new survey that is the latest chapter in a growing debate on physician-assisted suicide.
The Quebec Federation of Medical Specialists, which represents more than 8,700 physicians in the province, said yesterday that "75% of medical specialists would certainly or probably be favourable to euthanasia within a clearly defined legislative limit."
Dr. Gaetan Barrette, president of the federation, told a Montreal news conference the controversy over euthanasia has similarities to the abortion debate that took place in Canada decades ago, when doctors followed the lead of the public.
"Society was ahead," he said. "Doctors came after, and then governments legislated much later after [the] Superior Court had to rule [on the issue]," he said.
However, polls in Canada have consistently shown strong support among the general population for euthanasia. This summer, Angus Reid found 77% of Quebecers believe euthanasia should be allowed. In 2004, Environics Research Group found 68% of all Canadians approved of euthanasia and in a poll last year it found 44% would choose euthanasia and 44% would opt for palliative care.
I support euthanasia, in a limited sense, based on my own moral compass. However, I think there is also an argument to be made, relating to the political "upside". At first blush, the idea is rife with risk, taboo for a overly timid Liberal Party appartus. This initial scoff fails to drill down in my estimation, because while you bring the FOCUS, the ground is fertile. What we have is a classic discussion of individual rights, classic "liberal" terrority, even analogous to a Trudeau-like "the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation". This type of stance doesn't legislate assisted suicide, because individuals are free to chose their own path. What it does, is eliminate subjective morality, it recognizes a decidedly grey ethical question.
Canadians aren't naive to these questions, our realities mean each of us have been touched by terminal illness, those that haven't will. This basic fact explains why the public may well be ahead of the politicians in their viewpoint. While any consideration would surely unleash a fury of resistance from predictable sources, this "galvanization" also attracts the counter. If you look at the Liberal roadmap, you find acceptance of the concept where we need support. A smart, incremental reform proposal isn't radical, it's actually mainstream and that's the bottomline. Couple that reality with a need to redefine the brand, and modernizing our views on euthanasia, becomes an attractor. This is the type of issue that demands a degree of courage, but it's not lunacy because the profession and the public are ready for the discussion.
Something to chew on...
Why look, an opinion piece in the National Post no less.