Good fun, Margaret Somerville, a McGill law professor is interviewed in the Catholic Register. The main objective of the article is to figure out her 'secular stance' on assisted dying. For good measure, and presumably to ascribe expertise to her in matters bioethics, the Catholic Register describes her as a bioethics professor, yet McGill only notes her law school and her medical school professorial appointments. I was not able to find any evidence of her holding currently a formal appointment as a bioethics professor at that university.
Evidence has never been MsSomerville's strongest point. So, without any evidence to back up her claims she declares on the Catholic website, 'One of the things that's wrong with respect to Justice (Lynn) Smith's judgment (in Carter v. Attorney General of B.C.) is that she purports to review the use of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the jurisdictions that have legalized it. She said there is no problem, there is no slippery slope. Well, that's simply not right factually.'
It turns out, in our Report on end of life decision-making in Canada we reviewed the empirical evidence on the slippery slope matter and concluded that there is no evidence that assisted dying leads us down slippery slopes to unwanted killings. Of course, we reviewed evidence, Ms Somerville is in full preaching mode.
Ms Somerville also declares that 'The biggest group who are against euthanasia are doctors, and certainly by far not all of them are Church people.' Things are more complicated. For instance, a survey of medical specialists in Quebec reported a strong majority of medical specialists in that province coming out in favour of decriminalizing assisted dying.
Ms Somerville is also up to her old magic tricks when framing the issue at hand: 'The pro-euthanasia people are very keen on saying there's a societal consensus, that everyone wants this. Well yes, but you've got to make sure those surveys are properly done. If you say to somebody that someone is in terrible pain and they want euthanasia, should they be able to have it? You've got to choose between saying yes to euthanasia and saying no to pain and suffering relief. What you have to do is ask people, does someone have absolute rights to all possible pain management? And the answer is yes, absolutely.' [emphasis added]
This is a true Somerville classic. The choice is, of course, not between either pain relief or euthanasia. You want good palliative care and access to assisted dying for those who do not consider their lives worth living. It's not either euthanasia or palliative care.
She is also against equal marriage rights, because 'of its impact on kids' rights.' It goes without saying that there is no evidence that kids brought up in same sex families are in any way worse off than those who are brought up in heterosexual families, or that their 'rights' are violated in any appreciable sense. But hey, Ms Somerville is concerned. Right. How about reading up on the evidence? I understood this to be an important concept in law, but I might be mistaken. She also notes, incredibly, that as far as she knows, homosexuality is natural 'for some people'. You just got to love her! - It is not terribly surprising, perhaps, that Ms Somerville's views, these days, are not even accepted as expert advice by the courts. As far as I can tell (her McGill website, her Wikipedia entry), this 'bioethics professor' has no formal qualifications in either ethics or bioethics.