News Views: Debate about death

The court ruled that Canada’s ban on physician-assisted deaths is unconstitutional and gave Parliament a year to draft new legislation.

A law banning assisted suicide was struck down in B.C. Supreme Court last week, igniting the debate whether the ruling will open the door to legalized euthanasia.

The court ruled that Canada’s ban on physician-assisted deaths is unconstitutional and gave Parliament a year to draft new legislation.

The law had been challenged by Gloria Taylor, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease. At 64, she can no longer walk, eats through a feeding tube, and is losing her ability to speak.

She was granted a constitutional exemption that permits her to seek physician-assisted death while the ruling is suspended.

She hasn’t yet decided what she’ll do, or when.

She has limited use of her hands now, but says the biggest loss is that of her dignity.

She can cope with death, but not suffering.

The federal government is expected to challenge the ruling, and is under pressure to do so from opponents of physician-assisted death.

They believe that striking down the Criminal Code provision prohibiting assisted suicide is a dangerous step backwards – a conflict between the value and respect for human life and an individuals’ rights to autonomy and self-determination, to choice.

Would someone choose to end their life because they don’t want to be a burden to others, or because they don’t want to be alone, or because staying alive is too expensive?

Could they be coerced into believing the latter?

That is where this debate is going.

But let’s be clear, only those who are seriously and incurably ill should have the right to request that a physician assist them to end their lives in a dignified manner.

And that is for the doctors to decide.

That’s how it has been done in Switzerland since 1942.

We we able, through health care now, to make dying comfortable, managing pain and maintaining respect, to a point. But when despair reaches a level that a person wishes to die, and one is willing to risk certain freedoms to help end that suffering, is it time to think again about just who a ban on physician-assisted deaths was helping.

 

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News

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