Illustration by Kate Wakely-Mulroney Illustration by Kate Wakely-Mulroney Kate Wakely-Mulroney

The hotly contested issue of euthanasia has once again been brought to the forefront in the form of a thirteen month old baby. Baby Joseph, as he’s become known to the world, is a terminally ill baby who suffers from a rare degenerative disorder, surviving with the aid of a respirator. Doctors at London Health Sciences Centre wanted to take Joseph off the respirator, proclaiming he was in a vegetative state, and had no chance for recovery. Refusing to perform a tracheotomy so that Baby Joseph could die at home, the tiny patient’s parents whisked him away to a St. Louis hospital, hours before Joseph was to be taken off his respirator for good.

Euthanasia is always a muchdebated topic, and something that U of T’s Current Affairs Exchange Forum (CAFEX) decided to explore as part of their year-long lecture series in the theme of freedom. Crystal Mason, Communications Director for the club, explains a little bit about how they came up with the idea to get Alex Chadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, to host a talk at U of T’s Gerstein Library this Thursday, March 17 for their event “Freedom to Die? : A Look at Euthanasia.”

“Oftentimes people say that the reason why they’re in favour of euthanasia is because it’s a question of allowing people their own personal freedom. We thought it’d be interesting to go more in depth into that question, and see whether or not it actually does assist freedom, or whether or not it ends up preventing freedom in the end.”

The club was keen on getting a speaker like Chadenberg, not only because of his knowledge on the topics, but also because of Alex’s emphasis on the issue of euthanasia was actually from the freedom perspective.

“He’s clearly against euthanasia, but he knows a lot about the different issues that have been happening in Canada, so he can share his own experiences and also share information about the situation in Canada in terms of the legal status, and the different ways it’s being dealt with in hospitals.”

Mason emphasizes that CAFEX itself does not have an official stance on euthanasia, and instead welcomes open and frank discussions on this issue and an array of ones like it.

“The talk gives the people who attend it an opportunity afterward to talk amongst themselves, with other people who have different viewpoints.”

The recent news stories surrounding euthanasia, like Baby Joseph’s story, have given people in this country much to think about, in terms of where the Canadian government stands in relation to countries like Holland, where euthanasia is allowed. Current legislation differentiates between passive and active euthanasia, although the procedure itself remains illegal. Mason hopes that this event will help people see all sides of this important social issue.

“Oftentimes people can think about it in an idealistic way, in terms of mercy killing. The actual experience of what has happened to euthanasia in these kinds of countries actually shows that it’s not really a situation that facilitates the respect for human dignity, even though that’s what it’s usually promoted as doing, so I think that is also something that would be very helpful for people to understand better.”

“Free to Die?: A Look at Euthanasia” takes place today, Thursday, March 17 at the Gerstein Science Information Centre in the Alice Moulton room from 7-9 pm. The event is free, and refreshments will be provided.

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  • Subtitle: U of T's Current Affairs Exchange Forum hosts lecture on euthanasia
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