Legalization of Euthanasia in Canada: Good or Bad?

by jpd95 on March 22, 2015 - 11:46am

Euthanasia is now a topic of practically every day conversation.  Belgium has allowed euthanasia since May of 2002, and Canada has been having the conversation about the right to die for months now.  I will be examining a Globe and Mail article discussing about Quebec becoming the first Canadian province to adopt a right to die legislation, a Dan Gardner article looking at the Dutch story of euthanasia, and a Telegraph article looking at a personal story of a Belgium man filing for euthanasia after a botched sex change.


Quebec Bill 52, commonly known as the Quebec National Assembly passed the Right-to-Die Act by 80% of the MNAs (Members of National Assembly).  The Bill sets outlines “the conditions in which a terminally ill adult” would be able to ask for doctor assisted suicide.  According to Bill 52, a person who wishes to take advantage of the right to die must submit a request to the attending physician and approved by consulting with the hospital’s medial staff.  After that, a person would at anytime be able to sign a request for medical aid in ending his or her life.  MNA for the Parti Québecois, Véronique Hivon, who was a minister for the PQ government, was the person who spearheaded the bill says that people should not see it as “’medical aid to die’ but ‘end-of-life care.’”  Quebec Premier, Philippe Couillard, was a neurosurgeon before entering politics and says, “his encounters with dying patients convinced him people do not want to die, but they do want to end their suffering.”  Bill 52 is set to become law as of the end of the 2015 calendar year.


Dan Gardner argues that assisted suicide already takes place in Canada, but physicians simply do not talk about it.  Gardner goes on to say that in the Netherlands euthanasia happened before it was legalized in 2002, but the difference between there and here is the fact that physicians in the Netherlands are honest about that fact.  Gardner goes on to argue that doctors simply do not want to talk about what would happen once it becomes legal in Canada and how to regulate it; it would become a taboo topic.  Gardner continues on by saying that in Canada, any and all critical decisions made regarding end of life care are made behind closed doors, in private, without people knowing and the people who are making these decisions want to keep it that way.  What Gardner is truly trying to say is that the majority of people who are against euthanasia argue that it is a slippery slope that once they allow one thing the dominos will begin to fall.  They often argue that with the option of euthanasia doctors will opt for the cheaper option when it comes to treating a patient and simply ending their life.  A lot of people simply would be afraid of the fact that the doctor would act without getting the consent of the patient, which would be the final domino to fall in the slippery slope argument.  Many of the critics of euthanasia here in Canada argue with those statements, without paying attention to the statistics in the Netherlands, and that is all Gardner is trying to say.

One story that critics in Canada have really grabbed on to and run with is the story of a Belgian man killed by euthanasia after a sex change operation went wrong.  A Belgian man, Nathan (who was born Nancy) was allowed legal euthanasia “on the ground of ‘unbearable psychological suffering’”.  Nathan Verhelst, hours before dying, said that he “‘was the girl nobody wanted’”.  Critics in Canada are looking at this and are saying it is the perfect example of the slippery slope argument in progress, Mr. Vehelst was allowed to die when he was not feeling any physical pain and his life was not anywhere near the end stages.  There was nothing wrong with him physically, other than the fact that his new penis had “’symptoms of rejection’”, that is all.  Mr. Vehelst asked to be euthanized because he did not want to be “’a monster.’”  This Telegraph article also goes on to say that statistics about medical euthanasia “show a steep year on year increase in the number of patients” that doctors killed after they were presented with a request to die.  A record number of “1,432 cases of euthanasia in 2012” was recorded in Belgium, that number is up twenty-five per cent from 2011.  Also, Belgium is also looking into possibly extending “’mercy killing’ legislation to children.”  This Telegraph article gives a lot of ammunition, if you want to call it that, to the people opposed to doctor assisted suicide here in Canada, but the fact remains that it truly is fascinating to look at other countries’ models and go from there.


These three articles offer different viewpoints when it comes to doctor assisted suicide, or the right to die.  Quebec was the first Canadian province to get the ball rolling when it comes to implementing the right to die legislation, and Canada as a whole is looking to follow suit.  Gardner does a good job of arguing that people need to look at the statistics before they simply say that if assisted suicide becomes law a slippery slope will follow, as it is not always the case.  Then there is the tragic story of Nathan Verhelst, which gives all the ammunition to both sides, those who believe it should be up to the patient to decide whether or not to end their life, and those who believe that such a decision should never be made.




Gardner, Dan. "Euthanasia Is Not A Slippery Slope." Euthanasia Is Not A Slippery Slope. Ottawa Citizen, 18 Nov. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <

Séguin, Rhéal. "Quebec First Province to Adopt Right-to-die Legislation." The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail, 05 June 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <

Waterfield, Bruno. "Belgian Killed by Euthanasia after a Botched Sex Change Operation." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 01 Oct. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <


Your discussion on the issue of euthanasia is particularly complete and well done. Having worked on this issue myself, I can honestly say that you are really well informed and that you are presenting an interesting point of view.

I think that a different way to look at this issue would be by looking at Virtue Ethics. Instead of asking whether euthanasia is moral or not, we should ask what virtues we must have when faced with such a complicated issue. In other terms, what traits of character will make our actions, regardless of what they end up being, right or wrong? I think that compassion, conscientiousness, caring and justice are all virtues that we should have. In this particular case, these virtues might lead one to conclude that euthanasia is moral, since it is done with the intention to relieve one's suffering. However, we must keep in mind that, as Aristotle said it, we can have either too much or not enough of a virtue. Having too much compassion could indeed lead to slippery slopes and people dying for bad reasons.

The way you presented the topic if very well done, moreover, it was very clear and precise. I think that this could have a a link to Virtue Ethics. When looking at this issue, we should ask ourselves, what would a good person do regarding euthanasia ? Virtue Ethics explains that the moral thing to do is to act like a good person would. Therefore, since this issue is very complex, we should question the positive and negative impacts that the result would bring. Also, consider the surroundings of the impact and would it may lead to. In the end, Virtue Ethics tells us to do what brings our the best outcomes.

Your article was good and taught me a couple of things I wasn't aware of in terms of euthanasia and what's happening with it, especially in Belgium. It is true that it can lead to a slipper slope, but we need to look at it in terms of whether or not it's ethical, not whether or not it can get out of hand. The best ethical theory or perspective to go with on this topic is virtue ethics. Virtue ethics asks what traits make a person good, and what a good life consist of. For this situation, we would have to go with the golden mean, that is the virtue in between two vices. Not too less of one, and not too much of one. For example, if we were to tale the virtue of civility, we could apply it here. Too less civility would mean letting someone suffer for the remainder of their live, but too much civility would mean ending said persons life as soon as they find out they have a disease. In the end, virtue ethics helps us determine whats the ethical thing to do in this situation.

Your post was very well written and descriptive. You gave multiple view points on the euthanasia debate which made for a strong post. Deontological ethics is the belief that by rule if your intentions are believed to be moral when you act than it its morally correct based on duties and rules. In this case, Canada should not pass a law on making euthanasia legal or not and leave it up to the reasoning of the individual to do what they believe to be moral. Morality is not based on consequences.

I have to start off by saying what a great article you wrote. You were very factual, making it very powerful and honest and you showed the history on the debate of euthanasia in Canada and Quebec. To see if Euthanasia is ethically moral, one might use the idea of Virtue Ethics where people classify certain virtues as the right actions in life. Certain virtues go with different issues, in this case with such a controversial topic we should bring in certain values that would best correspond to the situation so that we find a middle ground for agreement. If you apply the virtues of caring, compassion and empathy we will get to the conclusion that Euthanasia is moral because it tries to bring happiness to someone’s despair. Although, it is key to make sure we do not abuse the principle and develop into something it is not supposed to be.

Your post was very well written and offered many facts about the situation Canada is facing. Deontological ethics states that intentions are more important than consequences. If the woman who underwent the sex change felt that no longer living was the best thing for her, then it is morally correct. Although this was allowed in Belgium, I do not think Canada would allow this due to the fact that he was suffering mentally. This woman was suffering mentally and therefore was not in a perfect state of mind and cannot make rational and intelligent decisions.

You gave a clear analysis of all the sides involved in the ethical debate, and I learned things I didn’t know about regarding euthanasia. By applying the ethical theory of virtue ethics to the debate, we would ask what would a moral person do facing a person who wants to end his life?

According to Aristotle’s golden mean, one should seek the perfect equilibrium in virtuous acts by defining what is too much and too little of it. In this case, too much permissiveness and understanding could destroy a person’s chances of doing any better, while not enough could be seen as disregarding this person’s right to choose what to do with his own life. In this case, we could avoid too much deaths by the slippery slope of over compassion by only letting people with specific sufferings such as degenerative diseases to undergo euthanasia, while giving emphasized professional help to people with mental health issues such as severe depression.

I pretty much enjoyed reading your article, the subject is a real issue over the world and it is interesting to compare the laws and views on the issue from different countries. In France, Francois Hollande promised repeatedly during his campaign in 2012, "a medical assistance to end one’s life with dignity" but it seems that this promise has been left out. The goal was to get the government to change the Leonetti Act of 2005, prohibiting aggressive therapy and introducing a right to "let die". Euthanasia is the fact to shorten the suffering of a person in an advanced or terminal phase of a incurable disease, causing unbearable physical or mental suffering. And that's where all the subtlety : the field definition can be quickly distorted.