Friday, January 22, 2016

Doctor assisted suicide in Canada

On Wed Jan 20, the Vancouver Courier newspaper landed on our doorstep as it does each week. As usual I opened it and looked through the flyers, and read the articles. I've enjoyed this paper for many years. 
On this evening, my face blanched of all colour, and my heart palpitations were extreme as I read Allen Garr's article on doctor assisted suicide here in Canada. I've included it below. Please read and please respond in all ways you know how. I disagree 100% with the views posted as I believe the vulnerable and ill should be protected and taken care of, and not snuffed out like the family dog. I believe in the sanctity of LIFE.
By Loretta Houben

Just in case the article disappears over time, as is often the case with online newspapers, I will also include it here in its entirety so I won't forget what's at stake in our beloved country: 

I suspect that, following the most recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, a law legalizing physician-assisted death is a done deal in this country.
The court granted the new Liberal federal government a four-month extension to come up with legislation effectively making that practice no longer a crime.
And, as such, it will bring about one of the biggest cultural changes we have seen in our country since Dr. Henry Morgentaler finally won his decades-long battle and abortion became a legal right back in 1988.
Both of these historic shifts in our country’s ethical perspective came about with the aid of the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ironically, while it was Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals that brought in that piece of legislation, his government actively upheld the law that made Morgentaler’s work illegal.
That was until the courts, considering the Charter, finally weighed in.
But like the issue of doctor-assisted death, the general public was way ahead of the government and the courts of that day. In Quebec in particular, where Morgentaler was repeatedly charged and tried for providing abortions, in spite of the very clear prohibition under federal criminal law, successive juries chose to acquit him rather than find him guilty.
It led to the extraordinary situation of higher courts overturning jury decisions. But in the end, the Quebec government simply threw up its hands and declared that, in spite of the law, abortions could take place in free-standing clinics.
Quebec, having thrown off the yolk of Premier Maurice Duplessis and the Catholic church back in the ’60s in its “Quiet Revolution,” has become among the most socially progressive jurisdictions in the country. While cases were making their way up to the Supreme Court of Canada, Quebec legislators spent years considering the issue of physician-assisted death.
And while we awaited a response from Stephen Harper’s Tories to follow the Supreme Court’s demand to rewrite the law and legalize that practice, Quebec passed its own legislation in December. (There has been at least one sanctioned death in that province since.)
This issue, which ultimately can touch us all either personally or through a family member, had its most recent history more than a quarter of a century ago in the case of Sue Rodriguez.
She was a Victoria resident suffering with the fatal neurodegenerative disease ALS. Her case ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada but led to a split decision of 5-4 against her in 1993. She would die a few months later, it was suspected, with the assistance of an anonymous physician.
It would be another 20 years before we finally saw a victory on the issue. It was where the case of another woman, Gloria Taylor also suffering with ALS, along with four other plaintiffs, all represented by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and its lead litigator Grace Pastine, was brought before the Supreme Court of Canada. And this time they won.
That was almost a year ago, and the court ordered the Tories to come up with a new law within 12 months.
Among the Tories’ first acts under Justice Minister Peter MacKay was to set up a panel of three doctors to consider the matter. As evidence that the Tories were simply dragging their feet, the BCCLA pointed out two of the three doctors had previously testified in court cases against doctor-assisted deaths. It seemed unlikely Harper’s crew would do anything before the October election, which proved accurate.
As for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, they are on the record supporting legalization and one can assume they will meet the extended deadline.
Meanwhile, the court granted an exemption to the government of Quebec, allowing them to carry on under their legislation. They also, in an extraordinary move, granted an exemption to individuals who, in the meantime, could meet the criteria set out in the court’s original ruling to seek a superior court judge’s permission for a doctor-assisted death.
As Pastine notes, the technical legislative task before the Liberals “is very simple.” As for the politics, well, they did promise, and the most recent poll I could find shows that 77 per cent of Canadians, including all ages and political persuasions, would welcome this most profound change.
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Betty said...

I've lost three friends to ALS. It's horrific to watch someone die that way. They try and swallow and then they choke. Their bodies waste away when they can't swallow food. I think all of my friends ended up starving to death. They usually lose the ability to speak (2 of them did) and walking is impossible. They are trapped in their own bodies and suffer. There is no treatment or cure. The lucky ones die quickly. My one friend was dead in five months from the time she was diagnosed, another eight months, and 2+ years for the third. If that's what they want and they are of sound mind I would not object. I believe in the United States where it's allowed it's rarely used. It's the patient that asks for it and then doctors have to agree. I would never want to see a caretaker or family member making the decision for someone else. It has to be the patient's decision with doctors in agreement and the situation hopeless. I came to this conclusion after watching what my friends went through. Fortunately, they all had family members that were able to care for them and didn't end up in nursing homes.

Loretta said...

Oh Betty I agree there are terrible ways to die, but I can never agree to doctor assisted suicide as I think it's a slippery slope and will not end there. Those who are mentally ill, who have psychological issues, or dementia etc, will be next. This is now the case in Holland. I was looking online this afternoon at the statistics and it is awful. I cannot bear to think of it happening here in Canada. Our own family doctor said if this becomes law, he will have to quit being a doctor as it goes totally against his Hippocratic oath. He would never perform an abortion either. What a world we now live in. All this was unthinkable when I was in my 30's only a few years ago! I too know people who are suffering terrible things, but in no way would I ever wish to end their life for them.