July 5, 2022

Canadian expert report endorses euthanasia

A lengthy report on euthanasia commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) has strongly recommended the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The six-person panel argues that this is consistent with Canadian values, and will not lead to an increase in elder abuse or a slippery slope from voluntary to non-voluntary euthanasia.

A lengthy report on euthanasia commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) has strongly recommended the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The six-person panel argues that this is consistent with Canadian values, and will not lead to an increase in elder abuse or a slippery slope from voluntary to non-voluntary euthanasia.

The RSC, a national organisation of distinguished scholars, artists and scientists, commissioned the report two years ago. The authors unanimously endorsed its conclusions – nearly all of them were well-known supporters of legalised euthanasia before joining the panel. They acknowledged the advice of Australian bioethicists Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer.

The chair of the panel, Udo Schulenk, a utilitarian bioethicist who is the co-editor of the leading journal Bioethics, and a professor at Queen’s University, in Ontario, said in a press release:

 “We carefully considered Canadian values, international experience in permissive regimes, and legal and ethical aspects of these practices and came to the unanimous conclusion that Canada should have a permissive yet carefully regulated and monitored system with respect to assisted death.”

The 70-page report, which is available online, grounds its legal arguments on Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its ethical arguments on autonomy: “If autonomy is, as we claim that it is, a central constitutional value, then it quite clearly grounds the right to request assistance in dying according to one’s considered and stable views about when one’s own life is not worth living any longer.” One of the longest sections in the report is devoted to refuting the coherence of the notion of “human dignity”.

“End-of-Life Decision-Making in Canada” is sure to be a reference point for the increasingly active euthanasia debate in Canada. However, critics were quick to point out that it was not “balanced, thorough, independent, free from conflict of interest and based on a deep knowledge of all of the published research” – as RSC expert panel reports normally are.

Michael Cook
assisted suicide
Canada
euthanasia