I normally wouldn’t respond to this type of ad hominem attack, which reflects an unwillingness to engage in respectful debate. But in the interest of providing some balanced information to those who wander onto your blog and may think that someone with academic credentials who has chaired an expert panel on the subject must have some basis for writing such comments, let me just make some observations and invite your readers to read more. A remarkable component of the Canadian debate following Carter has been that the strongest statements about the Supreme Court’s case have been made by people who are not constitutional law scholars, and in your case not even legal scholars. Intellectual modesty goes in my view hand in hand with academic integrity.
My blog on the Dalhousie Impact Ethics website, and other op-ed pieces, are what they are: short reflections, which are as reasonable readers know usually significantly edited down in length. People can read a forthcoming chapter (downloadable for free here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2734543
), which provides a more thoroughly developed argument that backs up, with much detail, all the claims made in my blogs and op-eds.
My interpretation of Carter (as a health law scholar with familiarity with constitutional law and Charter analysis) has been presented to other legal scholars including constitutional law scholars and I am very confident about the claims made.
Those who make the effort to read the chapter will see that the Supreme Court rejected the relevance of fresh evidence about Belgium’s euthanasia practices because, so the Court argued, the cases brought forward by the expert witness “would not fall within the parameters suggested in these reasons, such as euthanasia for minors or persons with psychiatric disorders or minor medical conditions.” This could hardly be a more explicit confirmation that the Court was not ruling with psychiatric cases in mind. The Court also repeatedly emphasizes in its decision the narrow basis of its ruling. The key declaratory section emphasizes that “[t]he scope of this declaration is intended to respond to the factual circumstances in this case. We make no pronouncement on other situations where physician-assisted dying may be sought.” In other words: the Court focuses on the cases in the litigation, which are end of life situations or cases of irreversibly declining capacities. They never dissociate themselves from the trial judge, who emphasized these characteristics of the cases.
Readers will also read in my chapter that the Supreme Court strongly emphasizes, I'd say even recommends, that Parliament can develop a strict regulatory regime with stringent safeguards and monitoring that can avoid the type of problems that we see in Belgium, which the Court suggests are “the result of an oversight body exercising discretion in the interpretation of the safeguards and restrictions in the Belgian legislative regime — a discretion the Belgian Parliament has not moved to restrict.” In other words: we can do better.
You may not like it that the Supreme Court remains so limited in its reasoning and suggests that Canada ought to introduce a more restrictive and stringent regulatory regime than Belgium’s regime, but it would be more appropriate to provide reasoned arguments to Parliament, rather than arrogantly state that colleagues with perhaps more knowledge of law can't read legal cases.
Those interested in a more thorough constitutional analysis of Carter can also read the following detailed constitutional analysis by Professor Dianne Pothier of Dalhousie University, a constitutional law scholar, who emphasizes the need to balance access to PAD for some with the Charter-related obligation towards others: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/56bb84cb01dbae77f988b71a/t/56f01526a3360cc820764be7/1458574630543/Pothier+-+charter+compliant+response+to+Carter.pdf
Your suggestion that I use ‘bits and pieces’ of the Supreme Court judgment is further extraordinary in light of the fact that you do exactly that. Take for example how you turn a study that clearly expresses serious concerns about ‘psychiatric euthanasia practices’ in the Netherlands (Kim-Devries-Peteet study) into a study that provides reassurance. Readers can decide for themselves whether your representation of that study is appropriate. The authors clearly consider their findings to be troubling and worrisome.
The zeal by which you and some other colleagues in bioethics try to trivialize relevant narratives in this area as ‘anecdotes’ is further mind-boggling. Since when do we refuse to explore in bioethics discourse detailed testimonies and stick to abstract statistical data without substantive content? We have more information about some of the cases I discuss than we have about Sue Rodriguez and Gloria Taylor. Those reading my chapter will understand how problematic it is to focus on the (not very reliable) statistical data from Belgium and the Netherlands, and to ignore the case reports and the wealth of evidence coming from interviews, public statements of those involved or affected, and investigative reports in Dutch and French, languages which I read and speak and I translate for the readers. Have you watched the full-hour documentary you trivialize? Have you read the accumulating case reports in Dutch and French? Again: some intellectual modesty would be appropriate in this context.
Your statement in relation to the television documentary that “the story told by those who oppose the practice might be a tad bit on the biased side of things” reveals how you are shooting from the hip without taking the time to be fully informed. The documentary I discuss (and link in my blog, for others to watch for themselves if they know Dutch) is apparently made by people who support the use of specialized ‘end of life’ clinics in the Netherlands. They make an effort to represent a positive image of the clinic and the work of the doctors involved, and they interview them. This was intended to be a ‘feel-good story’ about specialized end-of-life clinics. It is telling that the film-makers did not imagine how upsetting some of the components of their documentary would be, more or less in the same way that you fail or refuse to see that there are really problematic components to the Dutch and Belgian practices. It is somewhat reassuring that the type of critical debate you refuse to engage in is at least taking place in the Netherlands, with people writing reasoned and intelligent comments about that documentary and about other controversies, commentaries which I translated and link in my Dalhousie blog.
Where does your and some of our colleagues’ refusal to look at detailed case reports and direct testimony of those involved, and to assess more critically published studies on euthanasia involving people with mental illness, come from? I will not fall as low as to suggest that you must be completely indifferent to the suffering of people with mental health conditions and the family members of those who have been euthanized in troubling circumstances. But I firmly believe that ignoring the problems with the Belgian and Dutch regimes puts vulnerable people at risk; and that people like you, who publicly misrepresent reasonable arguments by colleagues in the context of this debate and attack these colleagues with ad hominem diatribes do a disservice to academia and thereby also to those who will be affected by new regulations in this area. This important debate deserves more respectful exchange.