SHOULD ASSISTED- SUICIDE BE LEGAL?

As things stand now, Canadian law says it is an offense punishable by a term of up to 14 years in prison.  But this week in a B.C. court, Russell Ogden is leading a group to have this prohibition of assisted suicide declared unconstiutional.  They want “self-chosen death”  to be a legal option.

Mr. Ogden’s group is pursuing the case because Canadians who are terminally ill have no appropriate option if they decide they want to die.  In a brief filed with the court Ogden writes:  “The crimi nal prohibition on assisted suicide in Canada causes immeasurable physicial and psychological suffering to persons of sound mind who are capqable of making informed decisions and who wish to end their own lives in order to avoid that suffering.  This suffering is as extreme as any suffering humanity must endure.  This case tests whether Parliament is entitled to cause such suffering to the people of Canada.”

Suppose one is an atheist or an agnostic.  Are there any sound reasonss why such a person should not end his or her life at whatever time of their choosing whether there is any suffering involved or not?

Is there any reason why “self-chosen death” should not be available in this country?

Is there any reason why assisted suicide should not be seen as a rational decision on the continuum of life.?

Polls now show that 70 per cent of Canadians now support assisted suicide.

Should assisted suicide be legal?

What do you think?

14 Comments »

  1. 1
    joe agnost Says:

    Yes. Assisted suicide should be legal.

  2. 2
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Why?

  3. 3
    Cate McB Says:

    I have a pervasive sense of here we go again … but were are we going? and what intentions are involved here? The “suicide” part is not the issue. “Suicide” has been legal in Canada for many years. The issue is the “assisted part.” You can take your own life if you want to, but you can’t involve a third-party legally. Why? The slippery slope argument is always advanced arguing that such assistance will be quite difficult to regulate, Holland always being raised as the prime example of the difficulties. And as for the professional groups conceivably involved like medicine, nursing, respiratory therapy, etc., none are keen to change their raison d’etre from saving lives to ending them. What they are keen on doing is providing better palliative care, a practice which has developed to the point where the vast majority of troublesome symptoms can be alleviated. Working in a medical ICU myself and having many patients suffering from end-stage chronic diseases like and including ALS, I see the value of palliative care almost every day.

    And then there’s the old adage that extreme cases create bad law. I always wonder why people go after legal changes stemming from extreme individual cases, but they are not willing to advance better palliative care in this country.

    And as for the idea that the prohibition itself CAUSES intolerable suffering, as the ‘Supremes’ argued in the Rodriguez case, it is the disease process itself that causes the intolerable suffering. After the decision in that case, there was to be a free vote in parliament. It never happened because among other reasons, no one believed that any workable consensus would be reached. I don’t think that has changed.

    The consensus that has been reached among professional caregivers (and this is ongoing) is about the need for more palliative and hospice care in Canada.

  4. 4

    “…I see the value of palliative care almost every day.”

    There are two ways to take that statement, and both are correct. But for the most part, the “value” attached to extended and enforced palliative care is MONEY — lots and lots of it, and all coming from those being cared for. Who may or may not be able to afford it. Or want it.

    But “value” of the other kind is very subjective, and each of us values things that others do not. So why, then, do we dare subject those who cannot fight back to values they do not hold?

    Assisted suicide needs to be legal. And let’s have none of the crap about “enforced” euthanasia. THAT is not the subject on the table.

  5. 5
    Cate McB Says:

    Quite right — the issue is not “enforced” euthanasia or any other kind. The issue is assisted suicide. Let’s not get the two issues mixed up.

    “why, then, do we dare subject those who cannot fight back to values they do not hold?” Sue Rodrigues fought back very well and so are the folks carrying on the current fight in BC. There are always those who, for various prices (money &/or fame), will carry on the fight for the vulnerable. That’s not the issue. By the same token, though, why would we dare subject the professions involved — medicine, nursing, respiratory therapy, etc., to implement practices based on values they do not hold?

    Yes, sure, there are those like Morgentaler and others who are willing to strike out on their own for a practice they believe in. That is always the perogative of those who wish to do that, but they will also have to bear the costs involved.

    As for monetary costs, palliative care is by definition, a form of care eligible for those having six or less months to live so I don’t know what you mean by “extended palliative care”. Also, its covered by provincial health insurance.

    And yes, certainly, Kevorkian’s machine took less time so if time is your supreme value, perhaps we should legalize that kind of system. But we need to take a closer look at Kevorkian’s ‘practice’ and whether or not it accomplished what it set out to accomplish. In fact, many of Kevorkian’s victims were not even terminally ill so is that what is wanted? — a system where anyone having any aches and pains objectionable to them can have assisted suicide at any time?

  6. 6
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Cate,

    Thank you for your thoughtful contributions.

    How do we deal with the argument that there is a good deal of assisted suicide going on in the context of the medical profession and it would be better to b

  7. 7
    Neil McKenty Says:

    Hi Cate,

    Thank you for your thoughful contributions on this difficult subject.

    How do we respond to the argument that a great deal of hidden assisted-suicide is quietly boing on with the medical profession and it would be preferBLe to b ring this out in the open so it could be regulated?

  8. 8
    Cate McB Says:

    Hi Neil,

    If there is “a great deal of hidden assisted-suicide” “quietly going on with the medical profession”, I have yet to see it or hear about it honestly and I’ve worked in health care most of my life! Maybe you have some leads?

    In my view, what needs to come out in the open is what palliative care is all about. Unfortunately, its workers in the field are so underfunded and over-worked that they don’t often have a lot of time for public education.

    I try to do what I can and have given many workshops where I am. However, there are still a lot of misunderstandings about what is involved even among health care workers. And then there is the fact that most people don’t want to hear about death and dying. In the workshops I give, I hear lots of lines like “well, they gave my granny morphine and then she was dead.” In fact, morphine is used very rarely in palliative care and even when it is used, it does not cause death. And “the war on drugs” rhetoric can discourage even the most enthusiastic nurse/doctor educator from even trying to do public education.

  9. 9
    jim Says:

    Anyone commiting suicide should be arrested for disturbing the pain.
    Anyone with the bent to commit suicide should have started saving pills the first time they felt some pain, and they were still mobile.They would now be able to do themselves in in one big gulp. If one wants palliative care but can’t afford it, they should get themselves a gun and go rob a bank with the empty gun. If the guard shoots them, their pain is over. The estate will not have to pay for the guard’s assisted suicide. If they get the money they should head for Holland and dive into the gin, sin and ready the pin. After doing the deed, will be the turnout. “He was such a nice man”. “He was a Catholic, you know”
    “Yes I heard that he wore an infula when he died”. “St.Pete will probably punish him by putting him into the same sleeping quarters as those who didn’t commit suicide even though they had the same pain. No one should ask someone else to do them in. It’s the epitomy of selfishness.

  10. 10

    “Sue Rodrigues fought back very well and so are the folks carrying on the current fight in BC.”

    Sue had a very high-profile and popular member of Parliament on her side, carrying the burden of the fight on her behalf (she lost her legal battle, but she “won” her need, and was assisted to die under her own terms; and while there was a media-centered rustling of papers and a lot of bustling about and harumphing being done, no charges were ever laid). And the current fight has the media on side. None of them are fighting alone. But why should they have to fight at all? Do we not all have the right to decide for ourselves what to do with our own lives and bodies?

    “By the same token, though, why would we dare subject the professions involved — medicine, nursing, respiratory therapy, etc., to implement practices based on values they do not hold?”

    Who says they do not hold them? Each individual practitioner is different from all the others, and I personally know several who think the prohibition on assisted suicide needs to be lifted so they can be allowed to provide that which their patients want — a clean and dignified death by choice.

    And I can understand, too, that there are medical practitioners who are sympathetic to the need on one hand, but don’t want to be personally involved on the other hand; and for them, it could be simply a matter of passive assistance — write the prescription and let someone else who is more willing actually get it filled and then make it available to the suicide. That is the scenario that actually happens more often than you probably want to believe, but I know of some who have done it that way.

    “As for monetary costs, palliative care is by definition, a form of care eligible for those having six or less months to live so I don’t know what you mean by “extended palliative care”. Also, its covered by provincial health insurance.”

    The term, “extended” is subjective, and cannot be adequately quantified for general use, I probably should have used a different term for it, but it comes down to this: palliative care is warehousing for the dying. And no amount of pretty surroundings can change that fact. Six months can be forever, when one is confined to a bed in a room with or without a lot of other people, being poked, prodded, medicated, dressed, changed, and generally handled without so much as an, “excuse me, do you mind?”

    And its being covered by provincial health insurance — as well as the actual extent of “care” — is up to the individual provinces. And the health care budgets are broke, to boot. It ain’t gonna get any better, it’s only going to get worse.

  11. 11

    “No one should ask someone else to do them in. It’s the epitomy of selfishness.”

    So don’t be selfish, then. But being selfish is not a crime, and if the dying can’t be selfish, who can be?

    I would be honored to assist a friend who asked me for such help.

  12. 12
    Cate McB Says:

    “By the same token, though, why would we dare subject the professions involved — medicine, nursing, respiratory therapy, etc., to implement practices based on values they do not hold?”

    “Who says they do not hold them? Each individual practitioner is different from all the others, and I personally know several who think the prohibition on assisted suicide needs to be lifted so they can be allowed to provide that which their patients want — a clean and dignified death by choice.”

    Certainly there are individuals within all professions who support assisted suicide and other individuals who do not support it. That’s not the issue. But individuals are quite different than the official statements/mandates of the professions themselves. And when it comes to the healthcare professions, none of them support assisted suicide in their stated mandates. And that won’t change until the Criminal Code changes which won’t be anytime soon.

  13. 13

    Then the professions as a whole must stop speaking for all members as if they all agree, which they do not.

  14. 14
    Cate McB Says:

    Membership in a professional college, e.g., the College of Physician and Surgeons, the College of Nursing, of Pharmacists, etc. involves following the law whether one agrees with it or not. If individuals wish to change laws, then that is their perogative but until that happens, membership hinges on following the law, in this case, the Criminal Code prohibition against assisting in a suicide.


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