I’m still in the middle of something very much akin to a work hangover, having worked seven days in a row, the last five being twelve-plus-hours. Yesterday was to be a day off, but I ended up having to go in to deal with a server room cooling crisis. And today I have some corporate visitors to meet. So, my blogging has been less than timely, and I’ve had to husband my personal time carefully. It should come as no surprise that Ophelia Benson caught this editorial long before I did, and blogged about it before I could.
From the Globe and Mail:
Time and again, opinion polls show a large majority of Canadians support the idea that the terminally ill should be able to decide when and how they die. They believe that competent adults in unbearable pain, suffering from an illness that will never improve, have the right to die with dignity.
And yet the Canadian government is no closer to resolving how – or if – to reform the law against euthanasia; no politician is brave enough to champion such a contentious cause, or even to launch a national debate probing public opinion.
The issue remains divisive and morally fraught. Critics of euthanasia, including some Christian groups and advocates for the disabled, fear it could lead to “mercy” killings of the vulnerable and the elderly.
As baby boomers age, experts believe they will lobby for a change to the section of the Criminal Code that makes euthanasia illegal (and punishable by up to 14 years in prison), in the same way they advocated for the legalization of same-sex marriage, and for other momentous social changes.
With protections, as advocated in the editorial, winning the right to choose when to die is no more inhumane than signing a “do not resuscitate” order when you know your time is waning. As long as you’re medically competent, as long as the medical science can do nothing to staunch the pain you’ll endure through the remainder of your life, the calculus behind deciding whether to choose to end your life before having to endure such agony may well come out in favor of suicide. If there’s absolutely nothing a doctor can do outside of drugging you out of your head for the rest of your life, that may not be a dignified way to end your existence. And if that’s the case, you should have the right to a less painful and more dignified end, under controlled circumstances with a trained professional assisting you in ending your life as humanely as possible.
I would require a significant amount of proof that this termination was done at the patient’s request, mind you. And a full autopsy should be done to determine that the patient actually died of the cocktail of drugs administered to end their life, so as to keep various shady dealings from going on, e.g. accidental death being written off as a requested suicide to prevent malpractice or to commit some sort of murderous fraud. The Dutch law this proposal is modeled after has a six part test, of which “express request” is the first part. Another is a “lasting desire to die”, meaning this isn’t some flash-in-the-pan request made out of temporary anguish. It also requires counselling as to options and other hoops. This is an acceptable burden, to me, to win the right to choose when and how to die with medical assistance.
What are your thoughts on this? Are there any good (e.g. non-religious) reasons to keep euthanasia illegal here in Canada, one of the otherwise most progressive countries in the world? (Never mind Harper and his, among other things, climate denialism for the moment.)