Do No Harm
The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study that claimed that a new computer risk calculator can determine when an elderly person has six months left to live. In almost morbidly comical fashion, the devised acronym for the program is RESPECT: Risk Evaluation for Support – Predictions for Elder-Life in the Community Tool. The stated goal of the program is to determine the closeness of death in order to ensure that the necessary end-of-life medical resources are available. However, many are concerned that it will be used to pressure the elderly towards euthanasia. If so, the program doesn’t seem to show much “respect” to the elderly at all.
The organisation Answers in Genesis have published a number of excellent articles concerning the topic of euthanasia and one such article written by Dr Elizabeth Mitchell touches on the danger of elderly persons being pressured into doctor-assisted suicide. She says, “To be blunt, when someone who is consuming resources dies, he or she stops consuming resources, and whatever is left behind becomes the property of others. There is an enormous risk that the financial incentive to hasten death can lead to the abuse of the terminally ill and disabled. The elderly, the poor, the disabled and the handicapped children and adults among us are those least able to defend themselves.
So, where this becomes dangerous for us as a society is the notion of civic duty. To the State, which is interested in key metrics around financial figures such as gross domestic product, export/import ratios, national budgets etc, the resources consumed by the elderly as opposed to the resources produced by the young may upend the delicate financial balance required in a nation. This is an exceedingly callous way to view the correlation between people and economic value due to the fact that all people are created in the image of God and have immeasurable value. Yet, the State often only sees value in citizens which produce for the State in a financial and cultural manner. So, instead of the elderly being given a “right to die”, it is quite possible they will feel a duty to die when their financial and cultural contribution no longer exists to a level deemed worthy by the State. It would be to our nation’s great shame if anyone was made to feel like this.
Now, if you think it is ludicrous that a state or nation would actively pressure its citizens to end their life, in 2018, Roger Foley from London, Ontario (who has a degenerative brain condition) announced he was suing his province and the Canadian government as well as others for “denying his right to assisted life.” Foley stated that he was “refused his request to live at home and be in charge of directing his own care.” He said that he was instead pressured on multiple occasions to agree to doctor-assisted suicide. Most alarmingly, Disability Inclusion Minister, Carla Qualtrough, stated that the man was not alone, saying she hears similar stories regularly.
Sadly, Canada is a leading country with respect to euthanasia deaths. According to an annual report, the practice was used to end the lives of 7,595 Canadians in 2020 alone, including 1,412 who felt “isolated and lonely”. If only those who felt isolated and lonely had received a warm embrace from the medical community, perhaps they could have been helped to live again. It seems doctors have long forgotten their oath to “do no harm”. Of greater alarm is the fact that Justin Trudeau (Canadian Prime Minister) wants to go further. In March this year, Bill C-7 received Royal Assent and its purpose was to expand eligibility for assisted suicide by including those not terminally ill. It also waived the 10-day waiting period for those who are terminally ill and permitted doctors and nurses to lethally inject a person incapable of consenting if they were previously approved for doctor-assisted suicide.
Increasingly, our culture is placing a value on human life that is contingent on good health, skill and level of contribution. Those who are old, infirm, terminally ill, unborn or disabled are increasingly seen as having no value, so they may as well die and relieve the burden they allegedly cause to their community and economy. This demonstrates just how far we have fallen from the expectations of God and the love He calls us to demonstrate to all people.