Another month has come and gone and I write yet another post to summarize the happenings and headlines that caught my eye.
Many things happened in March that stirred controversy and sparked discussion. There are many things I would’ve liked to cover but, for these posts, I choose to focus on three things. In this post, I will not discuss the death of Stephen Hawking, for example. Or the renewed interest and investment in concussion research in Canada. Or the violence in Austin or Maryland. Or the nerve agent attack on two Russians in Salisbury.
However, I would like to briefly comment on recent Canadian conversation in the news and media on palliative care and assisted dying. I would also like to talk about successful efforts (and some in the works) to restrict legal abortion access in the United States through legislative measures. Finally, I want to cover the results of the Ontario PC party leadership elections.
1. Canada’s Assisted Dying Problem Continues
Last month, a man from London, Ontario, with a terminal illness has gone up basically against Canada’s entire health-care system. The story goes that Roger Foley, suffering from a terminal neurological disease without a cure, was poorly treated by government-ordered home-care workers and was then offered assisted death as an option (or a solution), without providing proper assistance in life first and foremost. The issue is twofold: he was offered assisted death before proper care was given, and his previous request for self-directed home-care was denied. Foley has filed a lawsuit against Ontario’s ministry of health and several other parties including his hospital in London and health-care agencies. The lawsuit is the first of its kind in Canada.
This is deeply troubling on a number of levels. The fact that workers and practitioners could be unprofessional and lax towards their care-giving and yet begin discussions of assisted-death is unthinkably wrong and immoral. This is grievously broken behavior. What is being implied when MAID is recommended in place of adequate care and to someone who has been suicidal in the past? The moment we put easier opting-out before supplying proper treatment (“assisted life”) is the moment we’ve lost our understanding of human value to the point of absolute malignity.
Joseph Brean writes in the National Post:
Critics have long feared that, once assisted dying was legalized, its legal borders would creep ever wider to include children and the mentally ill, and that hastening death would become the knee-jerk solution to the many intractable problems of end of life care.
I remember when Bill C-14 passed the senate, on June 17, 2016 (a day before my 21st birthday). There were some that wanted the legislation, in its final form, to permit those with non-terminal, more psychological illnesses to access assisted dying. Since then, many (like Adam Maier-Clayton) have vied for the right of the psychologically ill to have assisted death access. This has become the reality in the much more progressive nations of Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands–the depressed, and recently minors, have been seeking medically assisted death.
Assisted dying is not health-care because it does serve have the function of supplying health or eliminating suffering–it simply defeats human life. Assisted dying is not dignified because it’s built on the assumption that lives of suffering are not valuable, or may justifiably be considered worthless. Furthermore, according to many on the left side of things, we’re supposed to believe that assisted dying is the only dignified way to go out if our condition is bad enough. (Of course, some advocates will say ‘no, it’s dignified because it’s their choice.’)
Consider an opinion piece recently published by the Globe and Mail, last Friday, entitled “There is more than one way to die with dignity”. Of course, the thesis doesn’t perfectly align with my positioning. However, this article rightly urges the Canadian government to more seriously evaluate the worth of palliative care and the lives of those at the end, to fight for life and not just give an easy way out, an emergency exit.
The author, Ing Wong-Ward, writes from the perspective of one who has lived her whole life with a disability (spinal muscular atrophy) and now suffers from cancer. She writes:
I appreciate the world differently now. It is as though time has slowed for me to see the small details of life, whether it be the softness of my bed sheets or watching snow drift down through my apartment window.
I’m trying to live with dignity, as I always have, despite the very real medical indignities I have been subjected to.
Which is why it dismays me greatly there are continuing attempts to make it easier for people without terminal conditions to ask a doctor to end their life. It dismays me that a lobby organization calling itself Dying With Dignity is not actively lobbying for increased access to palliative and hospice care, or advocating for more community supports for people with disabilities to live as productively as possible. In other words, to live with dignity.
We are all going to die, but before we do, each one of us has a right to a good quality of life, even to the very end. Yet too many Canadians do not have adequate access to palliative and hospice care. The lobbying efforts of those to equalize this are rarely discussed in our media.
2. New U.S. Abortion Law (Moral Progress?)
A few states have made moves to update their legislation on abortion:
- In Ohio, a bill has been introduced as of March 16th to ban abortion across the board, at all stages, for all circumstances. The bill has not been enacted or made law.
- A law has been enacted in the state of Idaho, to take effect in July, requiring women seeking drug-induced abortion to be notified that the procedure can be reversed or halted half-way.
- In Mississippi, a bill proposing abortion to be ban abortions past 15 weeks was enacted and signed into law on March 19th. This is the United States’ most restrictive, and protective, law.
- A bill in Kentucky banning Distillation and Evacuation abortions, which systematically dismembers the pre-born child before removing her from the mother’s body, has been passed by the Kentucky House and Senate.
All of this good news, even if some of the measures aren’t enacted or enforced. What these developments mean is that conservative politicians in the US are taking bold steps to challenge abortion legislation, even to the point of putting pressure on Roe v. Wade.
None of this will end the abortion crisis, however. Even if these laws are all enacted, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, even if an outright ban on abortion is put in place, abortions will continue to happen. On this, I think pro-choicers are correct when they say that ‘even if it were illegal, women will still have abortions by other means’.
More than legal reform, we need to change minds.
3. Doug Ford: Ontario’s Newly Elected PC Party Leader
The Progressive Conservative (PC) party of Ontario held its election for a new leader in the wake of the Patrick Brown scandal. On March 10, Doug Ford was elected to lead the PC party opposition to Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal provincial government.
What does this election mean, specifically for the pro-life conservative in Ontario?
I’m not a politician or an economist, and I’m not interested in any way in investigating the political or economic impact of Kathleen Wynne’s premiership. But, I am very much curious as to what Ford’s election might signify, considering the issues of Sex Ed in schools, abortion and assisted dying. Because those are the things I’m most interested in.
Many people know that Canada is perhaps the most liberal country in the world on the issue of abortion (and increasingly assisted dying), and Ontario is very much at the center of that. Most of the four PC party leadership candidates, including Ford, explicitly said they wouldn’t reopen the abortion debate. (Of course, Wynne is pro-choice.) Ford narrowly beat runner-up Christine Elliott who doesn’t support restrictions of any kind on abortion access. Caroline Mulroney didn’t want to touch the abortion or assisted dying issues. Tanya Granic Allen had the most aggressively pro-life, family-centric agenda which would’ve made her an ideal candidate for, say, someone like me.
Ford is thus plan B, but only because while he wouldn’t deliberately reopen the debate, he would allow others within the party to propose legislation and vote their conscience. A lot of pro-lifers voted for Tanya but had Ford listed as number two (which was likely the reason Ford won). Moreover, Ford has said he’ll revisit the Sex-Ed curriculum in primary/secondary schools (which was controversially modified under Wynne) should he be elected.
My personal hunch is that Ford will operate on the abortion topic similarly to how Donald Trump has in the states, except with even lesser enthusiasm. My guess is he won’t pursue any serious change to the system and that he’ll use pro-life lexicon here and there to gather followers. But, if he wins against Kathleen Wynne in the provincial elections in July, and if he makes good on his promise to allow other caucus members to propose changes to legislation, then a Ford premiership in Ontario could (maybe, possibly, hopefully) signify positive change in the future. And any economic reform he wants to bring will probably help as well.