Youth Protecting Youth

Defending the Dignity of All Human Life


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March for Life 2011

Tomorrow, May 12, the March for Life is taking place in Victoria. All are welcome to join in standing up for the dignity of all human life. Speakers at the Victoria March include Archbishop J. Michael Miller of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, Rev. Dr. Robert Fitterer of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Victoria, and international pro-life speaker Rebecca Kiessling.  The full schedule of events is available here.

Marches will also be taking place across Canada in places such as Ottawa, Edmonton, and Regina.


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Compassion and Choices

Compassion and Choices is an American organization dedicated to improving care and expanding choice at the end of life.

Dying with Dignity is a similar organization based in Canada, and is dedicated to improving the quality of dying and to expanding end of life choices in Canada. They declare themselves to be “Canadians’ voice for choice at the end of life.”

Better care, increased choices, and dying a dignified death – these are things we all want in our old age. But words can be misleading. Both of these organizations maintain that end of life choices must include physician assisted suicide (PAS), an option they define as a “compassionate choice”.

But what does true compassion entail? Is PAS really a compassionate choice that upholds a person’s dignity?

In April 2010, 74% of the Canadian Parliament voted against legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Soon after the vote, the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care (PCPCC) was created, a committee that is “dedicated to promoting awareness of, fostering substantive research and constructive dialogue on palliative and compassionate care in Canada.”

This past Tuesday, November 9th, the committee held a hearing in Victoria which featured multiple presenters speaking on elder abuse and the need to change our current medical framework to provide better care for the elderly. All the speakers had a passion for building a better health care system to support our aging population.

One of the most pressing questions to be answered was: should this system include euthanasia or physician assisted suicide (PAS)? Many speakers saw a potential need for PAS, but “not yet”: we must first build a better palliative care system, and then assess the need for PAS down the road. We must note the difference between euthanasia and PAS. Euthanasia is defined as when one person, usually a medical professional, directly and intentionally ends the life of individual. Assisted suicide is defined as the aiding, abating, or encouraging by an individual to another individual such that the victim is able to end their own life.

According to Wanda Morris, a spokesperson for Dying with Dignity, compassionate care must include PAS, and ensuring this choice is available is the fundamental principle in providing a person with a dignified death.  Let us look to see what this compassionate choice really involves before we succumb to this deceptive use of “choice” and “compassion”.

Organizations that advocate for legalizing PAS state that end of life decisions are a matter of autonomy, and “the only way that every person can be assured of [their] dignity is through legally protected choice.” But our autonomy and dignity is not solely dependent on our ability to make choices. If this were the case, then any request to die would have to be respected, including ones from people who are close to death, and ones based on momentary feelings or clinical depression. Therefore those who are not terminally ill would have to be allowed to choose to die. What then would stop a teenager from making the legally protected choice to have assistance in ending their life when they are depressed after a bad break up? Would we call it compassion that allowed that individual to be killed and not counselled? 

If such actions are justified merely because one must be allowed to exercise their autonomy in making a choice, who then will have the authority to draw the line and say that some choices are wrong? Under the illusion of “choice” we would be creating a society that legally allows individuals to harm themselves or other human beings.

And does the power to make these choices reside solely with the patient, or will outside influences affect the decision made? Whether intentionally or subconsciously, pressure may be placed on those who are ill, disabled, or elderly, influencing their choice on whether or not to further burden their family or health care system. Studies reveal that where euthanasia and PAS are legal there have been abuses, and people have not been cared for appropriately.

A recent study [i]regarding euthanasia practice in Belgium found that 66 of 208 euthanasia deaths were performed without explicit request or consent. Is this compassionate? None of these people had a choice in their premature death.

In Oregon in 2007, 49 people[ii] were reported to have died by assisted suicide. None of these people were offered a psychological or psychiatric assessment. Furthermore, a study[iii] published in October 2008 showed that 26% of people requesting assisted suicide were depressed or experiencing feelings of hopelessness. Is society showing these people compassion by allowing them complete access to death, or would it be more compassionate to give them life-affirming options that reveal their dignity is not dependant solely on their choices?

One of the principal precepts of medical ethics is, first, do no harm.” The majority of society adheres to this principle, and agrees that intentionally killing is wrong. But when the killing is disguised with terms such as “choice”, “dignity”, and even “compassion,” people lose sight of the tragic reality of the deed being done.  True autonomy is an essential component of human dignity, but it does not include the freedom to do harm.

Dignity can only be affirmed, realized, and answered through true compassion. This compassion recognizes and instils the beauty and inherent value of life in those who have forgotten it, or who have been otherwise convinced that their lives no longer possess it. True compassion must include better palliative care for the dying; this is something all the speakers wanted, as do Canadians.

In a recent Environics group survey[iv] , 71% of the respondents stated that the government needs to place a greater priority on improving palliative care rather than legalizing euthanasia. In addition the study found that support of legalized euthanasia is decreasing.  63% of the respondents were afraid that the elderly would feel pressured into being euthanized in order to avoid health care costs, and 78% were afraid that individuals would be euthanized without giving their consent.  As we can see by the studies in Belgium, these abuses can easily turn into a reality.

Is physician assisted suicide a compassionate choice? I would conclude that it is not. We must not get caught up in the euphemistic terms of “choice” and “compassion”. People who kill themselves or have others do so in order to gain a “dignified” death have in fact lost their sense of dignity and self worth. The dignity of a human being is not dependent on our state of pain or level of ability. Dignity is something that is inherent to all people, and the only way to affirm it is not to kill the sufferer, but rather to support and protect the individual by providing life-giving, compassionate choices, and doing our best to alleviate their suffering. A society that kills the most vulnerable in our society, the frail, suffering, and lonely, effectively confirms these people’s thoughts that their life is no longer worth living; such a society shows itself to be uncompassionate.


[i] Kenneth, C., et al (2010). Physician-assisted deaths under the euthanasia law in Belgium: a population-based survey. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 182 (9).

[ii] Oregon`s Death with Dignity Act- 2007. Death with Dignity Act. http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/pas/docs/year10.pdf

[iii] BMJ-British Medical Journal (2008). Assisted Suicide Laws May Overlook Depressed Patients. ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/10/081007192534.htm

[iv] Environics group (2010). Canadians’ Attitudes Towards Euthanasia.  http://www.lifecanada.org/html/resources/polling/2010_Environics_Report-Euthanasia_Eng.pdf


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Euthanasia and Bill C-384

Update: Bill C-384 was defeated 228 to 59, April 21, 2010.

While much of our advocacy as a club focuses on abortion, we also deal with other life issues, including euthanasia. We believe that effective and compassionate palliative care is essential. The World Health Organization defines palliative care as follows:

“Palliative care

  • provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
  • affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
  • intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
  • integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
  • offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
  • offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement;
  • uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated;
  • will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
  • is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.”
  • We believe that euthanasia and assisted suicide are wrong because they involve the intentional killing of human beings, and further because if they become common practice, they pose a risk to those with disabilities or long-term illnesses, who may feel pressured to choose death.

    In the past year, Bill C-384 has been making its way through the House of Commons.

    The Canadian Medical Association has stated it’s opposition to the bill.

    The Council of Canadians With Disabilities is also opposed.

    For more information and updates on the progress of the bill, as well as information about the issue of euthanasia in general, visit the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, or Alex Schadenberg’s blog.


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    In which Catherine explains the basic beliefs of our club, and perhaps comes off as rather forward

    Youth Protecting Youth is a pro-life club. What does that mean? In the media we are often referred to as an “anti-abortion” club. This is true, but incomplete.

    Yes, we are opposed to abortion. The important question is “why?” As a group of pro-life individuals, we believe in the intrinsic value and dignity of all human beings. We believe this dignity needs to be recognized and upheld in all human beings – regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, mental or physical ability, age, or perceived quality of life. For this reason, we are opposed to abortion, euthanasia, and any other action that denies the dignity of human beings.

    Those who oppose our club often refer to us as “anti-choice”. Frankly, I find this term ridiculous. If I were against choice in general, I would not be in university. I would have failed every multiple-choice test with which I was presented throughout my life. In fact, if I were against choices, I don’t know how I’d function at all.

    So let’s finish the sentence. There are specific matters in which I am “anti-choice”. For example, I am against the choice to drink and drive, I am against the choice to assault someone, and I am against the choice to rape someone. I think most people in our society are comfortable saying they are “anti” those choices. Something those choices have in common is that they hurt or kill other human beings. And that is why I have a problem with abortion: unborn human beings are human beings.

    So, dear reader, I want to say that I love you. I might not know you, but I know that you’re a human being reading this, and I want you to know that you have value and dignity as a member of the human family. I love you regardless of the choices you’ve made in your life, regardless of how much or little value you may feel you have, regardless of what you think of me.  Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I don’t show this love as I should. But I will work to uphold the dignity of all human beings, including you. I hope you will do the same.

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