Canada’s Position on Physician-Assisted Suicide. What is Yours?

Imagine being bedridden with a vicious, incurable disease. Living in misery and being kept alive with a cocktail of very powerful prescription drugs, but you do not want to suffer any longer. You want to pass peacefully and seek the advice of your doctor but your physician cannot legally help you. This is the reality of a number of sick patients throughout Canada that wish they had the option of physician-assisted suicide.

In Canada, like the majority of the United States, physician-assisted suicide is illegal, but some doctors are still helping fulfill their patients’ wishes to die peacefully. These doctors usually do so by increasing pain medicine or giving their patients very strong sedatives that will speed up the process. If these doctors are caught, they could face serious criminal charges, like first-degree murder, and would most definitely lose their medical careers.

One may suggest that these doctors should voice their opinions supporting physician-assisted suicide in an effort to change legislation but it is a battle they will probably lose along with their reputation and medical licenses. Even though a great number of medical doctors may quietly support such change, most of the country’s medical governing bodies are opposed to assisted death. This unfortunately leaves patients to resort to other physically and mentally challenging options. For example, a Canadian man this past April took his own life, in which he carefully planned with his wife, because he could not live with the crippling and painful symptoms of Huntington’s disease.

In the United States, Washington and Oregon have legalized physician-assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses. Also, Massachusetts has proposed the Death with Dignity Act which would allow doctors to prescribe medication to end a patient’s life if he or she is mentally sound and expected to die within six months. This law will be voted on in November.

I believe that physician-assisted suicide should be legal. People should have a right to control their life, especially those living in great pain. One can argue that these people can control their own life and do not need physicians to aid in their death but I believe the support of physicians provide patients with comfort. It allows patients to make fully informed decisions about their health and seek the best method in dying peacefully.

What are your views on physician-assisted suicide?

The Toronto Star, TIME

Photo Source: LJWorld

7 comments

  1. In 1997 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Vacco v. Quill and Washington v. Glucksberg that there was no constitutional right to die with the help of a physician and upheld States’ ban on assisted suicide. I agree with the Supreme Court that the right to die is something that the Constitution was not intended to protect. That being said, the States on their own can pass laws that allow this as was mentioned above with Oregon and Washington. While I am not fully decided on whether physicians should be allowed to assist with suicide, I am in great support of States’ rights. Therefore, if a state chooses to pass a law allowing this, I am in full support of that.

    In regard to physician assisted suicide, I am wary of how much freedom we want to give it. Ms. Campbell stated that she is in support of people controlling their lives, especially for those in great pain, to be able to choose physician assisted suicide. While I do not want to turn this into a moral discussion, what would be the standard where physician assisted suicides should be allowed? Only to the terminally ill, only to those in great physical pain, only to those in great physical pain and that are terminally ill? Should the young and healthy be allowed the option of physician assisted suicide as far as the law is concerned?

  2. I also agree that physician assisted suicide should be legalized. It is clearly the better alternative than people taking their own lives. It is much safer and more humane for a doctor to assist in the death of an individual, than for them to plan to do it themselves. This especially burdens their loved ones, because people usually cannot carry out the task alone. I also believe that placing strict guidelines on physician assisted suicide may help people see the issue in a different light. For example, it should only be allowed under certain circumstances, such as terminal illnesses. I also think that doctor’s should have specific training. We do not want these doctors assisting patients in their basements. It would be much safer and more beneficial for doctors to have proper training and for this procedure to be performed in a hospital. This will also make the process safer and smoother for the individual seeking help. Also, individuals who seek this assistance should be thoroughly analyzed by a psychiatrist to make sure they are of sound mind and know the consequences of their decision.

    I think it is a simple decision. Our country has legalized countless controversial things, such as abortion and inter-racial marriage. No one will ever agree on one view or another, hence why they are called “controversial issues”. But, people who do believe in one way, should be allowed to express their beliefs without punishment. If one chooses to seek assistance from a doctor to help them die with dignity, then so be it. People who do not agree with it should simply look the other way and respect the choices of other individuals.

  3. “Fully informed decisions.”

    You know, I think most people who argue for a so-called ‘right to die’ would agree that suicide is morally permissible only when it is a “fully informed,” i.e., rational decision. But the question then is: is a person contemplating suicide capable of making a rational decision?

  4. I worry about the potential for abuse. Many regulations would be needed to make sure that the person is of sound mind before being able to consent or ask for such end of life treatment. Currently, Morphine is used in a similar fashion. Once a person is near death they are heavily sedated and the Morphine usually helps the person die in peace. I am not sure how much earlier in the process people want to end their life? Could they establish special practitioners that could monitor and decide this matter if it was legal. This way not every doctor could just choose to end a life? Maybe only specially certified doctors? What could the process be to make sure that people are not prematurely choosing to die?

  5. I agree with Lindsay. There are many variables that need to be considered before legalizing physician-assisted suicide. I must disagree with Alexandra, for I do not think this is a simple decision for the government.

    I understand that people in severe pain, with minimal time remaining to live, would like to be able to pull the plug with the help of a trained physician. This argument makes sense to me. Many feel that living bed-ridden and doped up on drugs, is not living at all. Sometimes family members would rather see their loved one pass away rather than have to watch them suffer through severe sickness. Death can be a relief for a drastically sick or pained human.

    However, this issue is anything but simple. I do not think we can allow doctors to help their patients die without an exceedingly detailed protocol to determine the mental soundness of the person making such a decision. That being said, I am not sure that such a protocol is even possible.

  6. Personally, I do believe that a person should have the right to die, but as Pierre mentioned the States have the option of passing their own laws in regards to physician assisted suicide. With that being said, I believe that leaving this decision up to the states is the correct decision. A state knows how to better serve the needs of its citizens than the federal government does. As Peter mentioned, there is the question of whether a person is competent and has the standing to make the decision of whether to receive physician assisted suicide. With that being said, I believe there are certain steps that can be taken in order to ensure that the correct decision is made. For example, a state can perhaps implement an informed decision requirement before a person can include such a wish in their will or something similar along those lines, and not place the decision in the hands of the person’s family. However a state may proceed with this matter, I do believe that this is a right that should be granted to a person so they do not have to suffer further when in such a circumstance.

  7. I think it is certainly possible to determine whether a person is mentally sound enough to declare that he wishes to end his own life. There are protocols to determine whether a person is mentally competent to stand trial in which he could be given the death penalty. I do not see how this is any different. I believe allowing a person to choose when and how his life ends is humane and should be a legally protected right. How does outlawing a person’s ability to choose death benefit society? Whose interest is the government trying to protect by making this choice illegal? The government is certainly not protecting the individual’s right. In fact the government is doing the complete opposite. They are forcing the person to suffer and live with a painful and hopeless illness when that person clearly does not wish to do so. Moreover, forcing the patient to go on living will most likely require continued healthcare, medicine, and hospital visits. All of this costs money that the family and the patient may not have to spend, yet they will have to find a way to pay for these treatments that are essentially pointless. I understand my comment may greatly oversimplify the issue; however, my point is that if a competent person with a terminal illness wishes to end his life on his terms, rather than slowly and painfully wither away with no hope of recovery, he should be allowed to do so.

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