When British Columbia Justice Lynn Smith declared that the Criminal Code’s provision against assisted suicide was unconstitutional, she reasoned that Parliament could create a system of assisted suicide that would protect the vulnerable and the mentally ill. She gave the federal government twelve months to enact new law.
It seems Belgium enacted such a law in 2002, but its “protective” features have failed miserably, a fact that has been exposed with the recent, legal, assisted suicides of 45-year-old Belgian twins, Mark and Eddy Verbessem.
Belgium’s legislation, The Belgium Act on Euthanasia, stipulates that a person seeking assisted suicide must be in a “medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that can not be alleviated, resulting from an incurable disorder caused by illness or accident.”
Based on the media coverage of the Verbessems’ suicide, it seems doubtful that the twins actually qualified under the legislation. It was reported that the twins feared institutionalization when they became blind.
Yes, they were deaf and conversed in sign language and yes, they had been told to expect to lose their sight, but there is no indication their condition was “medically futile” or their mental suffering at the prospects of becoming blind, could not be alleviated with appropriate medical treatment.
The Belgium law also compels a potential candidate for assisted suicide to obtain a second opinion from a psychiatrist or medical specialist, if the condition of the patient does not indicate imminent death as a result of their disorder. It is unknown whether this further layer of “protection” was provided to the Verbessem twins.
That the twin’s efforts to end it all was viewed with dubiety is apparent by the fact that after they recruited a local doctor, it took them two years to find a medical facility that would allow the lethal injection.
A few days after the twins died, the Socialist government of Belgium tabled a legal amendment which would permit children and Alzheimer’s patients to be euthanized as well.
If our Supreme Court agrees that the current Canadian law is unconstitutional, as they are predicted to rule, let’s hope that our federal government does a better job than the Belgians of applying the law.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang