The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Death and Doctors

Human fertilization occurs when the two human gametes, the sperm provided by the male and the egg provided by the female, combine to form a zygote.   The gametes, formed by the process known as meiosis, are haploid, which means that they each possess half of a full set of human chromosomes.   The zygote is diploid, which means that it possesses a full set of human chromosomes, half from the sperm, half from the egg.   With the formation of the zygote, the process whereby it grows through the ordinary cell replication known as mitosis into a multi-celled embryo and then a foetus, begins.    What this demonstrates is that a) the zygote is alive and b) it is human, therefore c) it is already a human life.    The ethical implication of this is that the deliberate termination of a pregnancy, unless it can be shown to fall into any of the recognized categories of justifiable homicide, such as self-defence against criminal assault or in execution of the sentence of a court of law after a conviction, following due process, for a capital crime, is an unjustifiable homicide, or, to use the plain English word for this, a murder.

This fact was recognized by Canadian law until relatively recently.   It was Pierre Trudeau, who after contributing to the overthrow of the traditional Roman Catholic cultural establishment of his home province in his career as a Communist propagandist in the 1950s was brought into the Liberal Party at the Dominion level by Lester Pearson in the 1960s and groomed to be Pearson’s successor as leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister which he became in 1968, who changed this.    In 1969, Trudeau altered the Criminal Code to allow for abortions in cases where three physicians would attest that the pregnancy was endangering the life of the mother.    This, however, was small potatoes, compared to the effect of his addition of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the constitution in 1982.   This gave the Supreme Court of Canada powers similar to those of the American Supreme Court.   The consequence was that in 1988, the Supreme Court struck all remaining laws against abortion from the books, telling Parliament that it would have to pass new legislation restricting abortion that would conform to the Court’s interpretation of the Charter, which Parliament has failed to do to this day. 

Now, as bad as Pierre Trudeau’s role in creating this unprincipled exception whereby the protection of the rule of law against murder is withheld from the most vulnerable undoubtedly was, it was not exactly out of character for him either in his role of Communist radical or his role of sleazy, dirtbag, politician.   The same cannot be said for those who have the task of doing the dirty work of abortion – the physicians.   The first principle of the ethics that supposedly binds the medical profession is primum non nocere – first do no harm.    The deliberate termination of life is a fairly obvious and extreme violation of that principle. (1)   Yet abortion is not the only procedure in Canada today in which those who have sworn the oath attributed to Hippocrates of Kos intentionally put an end to human lives.


Physician-assisted suicide was against the law in Canada until very recently.    In was only in 2014 that the province of Lower Canada became the first to pass “right-to-die” legislation.   In February of the following year the Supreme Court gave its Carter ruling on the constitutionality of the law against physician-assisted suicide.   In the Morgentaler decision in 1988 in which the abortion laws were struck down, the Court had invited Parliament to pass new legislation that would restrict abortion without violating the Charter, which they never did.   In the Carter decision in 2015, the Court gave Parliament one year in which to fix the existing law before it was struck down absolutely.   Not only did Parliament fail to do this, but in passing Bill C-14 the following year, it legalized the procedure and, under certain circumstances, allowed for physicians to go even further than what the word “assisted” implies.  


The old expression for this sort of thing, where a physician kills or helps to commit suicide, a patient who is suffering from an incurable condition that causes excruciating pain, was "mercy killing".   This has long gone out of style, since its supporters are squeamish about acknowledging the reality that it involves "killing".   It was replaced years ago with the neologism euthanasia, formed from the Greek words for “good” and “death.”  Euthanasia is an example of a euphemism, a word with which it shares a component part.   Euphemism combines the word for "good" with the word for "talk" or "speech" and refers to inoffensive or at least less offensive words used as substitutes for more offensive ones.    George and Sheila Grant wrote an excellent essay about the euphemistic language of euthanasia - not just the term itself but the accompanying rhetoric such as "death with dignity" and "quality of life" - that first appeared in Care for the Dying and Bereaved, edited by Ian Gentles and published by the Anglican Book Centre in 1976, and which was subsequently republished as the second last chapter of Grant's Technology and Justice published by Anansi in 1986.   The Grants focused on the language surrounding the practice because they believed, rightly, that confusion with regards to terminology was creating confusion in the public debate about the issue.   They made this important distinction:


It must be forcefully stressed that the proper refusal to prolong inevitable death is quite different from deliberately causing the death of someone who is not already dying.  Only the latter is euthanasia.


Confusion over this point, they maintained, was what was generating sympathy for the practice:


If the public rightly disapproves of the abuse of technology on the dying, yet wrongly identifies euthanasia with letting the dying die, then our attitude to euthanasia inevitably becomes more positive.


Imagine what they would have said could they have seen ahead to 2020 in which physician-assisted suicide was embraced while letting the dying die was condemned to the point that it was deemed necessary to take away everybody's most basic rights and freedoms in order to prevent the latter from happening.   Actually, maybe we don't need to imagine.   Here is the concluding paragraph of their essay:


The three ideas which have been discussed - "death with dignity" and human autonomy, the distinction between "persons" and "non-persons", and "quality of life" judgements - all have something in common.   They are all used dogmatically, leading to great confidence in our right to control human life.  These are areas where the great religious tradition at its best has been restrained by agnosticism and a sense of the transcendent mystery.  Some believers have tried to combine these two views of life in a crudely simplistic manner.  They have identified the freedoms technology gives us with the freedom given by truth.  The result in the public world, if policy flowed from this identification, would be the destruction of cherished political freedoms.


Although decades have passed since the Grants warned us about where the paths of abortion and euthanasia were leading us, decades in which we, ignoring those warnings, proceeded down those paths at an accelerating pace, never have their words been more timely.


Today, the battle, for many of the sane remnant who think that an MD should not be regarded as the real life equivalent of a Double-O designation with a licence to kill in one of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, has shifted from protecting human lives from the threats of abortion and euthanasia, to protecting the rights of physicians to refrain from performing or taking part in these gruesome slaughters against their consciences.    This is unfortunate, because it sends the message of a retreat from, if not a concession to, the advancing foe, but it cannot, perhaps, be helped due to the many indications we have seen over the last decade or so that toleration of dissent to abortion and euthanasia within the medical profession is shrinking and short-lived.    In Upper Canada, for example, there is a requirement that physicians who do not want to take part in an assisted-suicide provide an “effective referral”.   If you don’t know what that means, think of the episode of the Simpsons where Homer comes up with a scheme to gain a whole lot of extra weight to qualify as clinically obese so he can work from home.   When Lisa tells him that “any doctor” would tell him that obesity is unhealthy, he says “well, we’ll just see about that little miss smart guy” and goes to see his family physician Dr. Hibbert.   Dr. Hibbert says “My God, that’s monstrous!  I’ve never heard of anything so negligent.  I’ll have no part of it”.   Homer, unperturbed, asks “Can you recommend a doctor who will?”  Dr. Hibbert replies “yes” and the next thing you know Homer is seeing Dr. Nick, who after his usual greeting of “Hi everybody”  tells Homer “Now there are many options available for dangerously underweight individuals like yourself.   I recommend a slow, steady, gorging process combined with assal horizontology…You’ll want to focus on the neglected food groups, such as the whipped group, the congealed group and the chocotastic.”   The point, before I end up quoting the entire episode, is that Dr. Hibbert performed an “effective referral”.  


Last November, the National Post’s Barbara Kay, writing for The Post Millennialinformed us about the case of Rafael Zaki, a young man who had been a student at the College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba here in Winnipeg.   He had written an essay against abortion for his Sunday School - he is a devout Christian of the ancient Coptic communion whose parents came to Canada fleeing religious persecution.   He posted the essay to Facebook, which prompted a number of anonymous complaints to the school.   The school investigated and, in Kay's words, this "led directly to a remediation process, during which Zaki was summoned to seven meetings with Dr. Ira Ripstein, the Max Rady College of Medicine associate dean for undergraduate medical education".   Kay's description of this "remediation process"  confirms what I assumed upon reading that expression - that it was euphemistic for the kind of nasty Communist official intimidation and reeducation process that hides behind the smiley-face of fake, outer "niceness" that evokes the image of Dolores Umbridge, the authoritarian bureaucratic educator from the Harry Potter books and which is ubiquitous on campuses all across Canada.   Kay drew the parallel with what had happened to Lindsey Sheppard at Wilfred Laurier University four years ago.   Although Zaki wrote letters of apology for giving offence - he should have refused to do so and read what the late Sir Roger Scruton had to say about the difference between giving and taking offence - this was not good enough for Ripstein because he, that is Zaki, did not recant of his views.   He was expelled from the College, appealed, and, despite any number of policy violations, procedural irregularities, and such, on the part of the school on top of the blatant injustice of it all, his appeal was turned down.   He has filed an application to have a real court, the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, conduct a judicial review, although he was denied an injunction staying the expulsion until the outcome could be determined.   Kay's focus in her commentary on this entire episode is on the growth of a totalitarian climate on the campuses of academe, suppressing freedom of thought in what until recently was considered to be its bastion.   The story, which does indeed, illustrate this well, also tells us that in at least one College of Medicine, the next step in the corruption of the medical profession has begun, the weeding out of dissenters to abortion and euthanasia before they can be licensed, so as to eventually produce a profession monolithic in its support of this blatant repudiation of basic medical ethics.  


The high esteem in which the medical profession is held has long brought to its members temporal rewards both social, in the form of respectability, and pecuniary in the form of very comfortable salaries.   Society has bestowed this esteem upon this profession based upon its image of learning put to the service of mankind in the alleviation of suffering, promotion of good health, and sustaining of life through the treatment of injury and disease.   That the putting to death of the vulnerable at both ends of life, the unborn in the womb on the one hand and the aged and the infirm on the other, is now also a part of this profession clashes with this image.   That the majority of the profession see no fundamental contradiction here is good cause for us to stop blindly trusting these overpaid rectal orifices, when they tell us that we must sacrifice our rights, freedoms, social lives, communities, jobs, and businesses in order to “save lives.”


(1)   This is obvious in any language, but interestingly to say “first do not kill” in Latin you would say primum non necare.   The second conjugation nocere – to injure, harm – and the first conjugation necare – to kill are both derived from a common root, believed to be the word for death in Proto Indo European, also the source of the cognate words nasyati, which means “perish” in Sanskrit and nekros which means “corpse” in Greek.

1 comment:

  1. We Christians will end up shut out of many professions...

    Darkness is descending...