The Right to Die with Dignity

Today I was angry. It felt as though something boiled over in me when I read the subject line of an email addressed to me: Help us protect the right to die with dignity. In Canada our government is trying to pass legislation regarding euthanasia. There is a “consultation questionnaire” which Canadians are encouraged to respond to at justice.gc.ca

I received the email from the BC Civil Liberties Association. I don’t recall ever signing up for mail from the BC Civil Liberties Association. In their letter they threaten that if we don’t offer medically assisted dying (MAiD) in Canada then it will “lead to premature deaths by suicide by some individuals.” Which frightening alternative do you prefer? The outcome is precisely the same.

I, frankly, don’t see any difference between shooting someone in the head at short range,  or injecting someone with a needle, or subjecting a person to the electric chair. And to me it is not compassion to help someone kill themselves. Frankly, I’m not there yet.

You will note that the questionnaire assumes all are in favor of assisted dying which until now was called murder or homicide or manslaughter and was considered the worst criminal offense because it ended a life.

Our government now wants to put some new guidelines, some parameters, around helping someone to kill themselves. No, the survey never asks if you are in favor of having medical professionals help someone to end their life. It only asks about which parameters you consider important in preparing for the procedure of terminating a life.

What made me angry is that suddenly “assisted dying” is a “right.” And it is a right that needs to be protected. In other words, we want to make sure you get to die, and that nobody interferes with that.

“Mature minors” should have the right to assisted death, we are learning.

The whole purpose of this new legislation is to ensure that “eligibility is broadened to individuals who are not near death.” This is what the BCCLA states in their email to me. The BCCLA adds:

The additional “safeguards” that the government is contemplating are unnecessary and potentially unconstitutional barriers to MAID.

Oh, I have so many questions around this, but our government’s mind is already made up. This is the next new “right” Canadians will be privileged to have protected.

In July 2016 the federal government passed legislation permitting medical assistance in dying. Since then 6,700 have died with medical assistance. A recent court ruling in Quebec has made it necessary for Canada to broaden the eligibility for euthanasia. You can read about it here

The Court declared the “reasonable foreseeability of natural death” criterion in the federal Criminal Code, as well as the “end-of-life” criterion in Quebec’s provincial law on medical assistance in dying, to be unconstitutional.

My problem is with assisted dying being a “right.” Do doctors also have a “right” not to assist dying? Do hospices have a “right” not to assist dying? A hospice in Delta, BC has been ordered to offer MAID by February 3 or lose government funding, even though the facility states that MAID is not compatible with the purposes of the Hospice Society.

“To not allow Medical Assistance in Dying brings with it potential human rights violations,” said former board president Jim Levin, who is in favor of MAID at the hospice.

The hospice has posted their statement here

Hospice palliative care and MAiD substantially differ in multiple areas including in philosophy, intention and approach.[xi] Hospice palliative care focuses on improving quality of life and symptom management through holistic person-centered care for those living with life threatening conditions. Hospice palliative care sees dying as a normal part of life and helps people to live and die well. Hospice palliative care does not seek to hasten death or intentionally end life. In MAiD, however, the intention is to address suffering by ending life through the administration of a lethal dose of drugs at an eligible person’s request.

We are to believe that removing barriers to this “procedure” is reflective of the “evolving views” of Canadians in just the past couple of years. There is a sense of pride over how progressive Canadians have become. However, hospices want to provide a “safe space” where death is not hastened. Will our government deny this right?

We are being told this is just another “choice,” needing protecting. It is another one of our “equality rights.” It is not the right to die that is being questioned. We all have that right. Nothing has changed in that department. But what is different now is, the right to have a medical professional condone your suicide and help you with the act.

It is particularly cruel to those who are vulnerable and those with disabilities.

As stated, here this irreversible procedure could easily be the result of “temporary anger, depression, a misunderstanding of one’s prognosis, ignorance of alternatives, financial considerations, strain on family members or significant others, or improper persuasion….”

I am very concerned when assisted dying suddenly becomes a “right” which has to be protected. This is not like the other rights we have seen come to the forefront in recent years. This does not make your quality of life better. It ends it. I am also very concerned about our move towards a flippant view of the sanctity of life. We all know this ends up down the slippery slope of who decides which life is worth preserving.

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