No doubt the discussion of legal updates around assisted suicide will be lively tonight (Jan. 29) at the Sticky Wicket Pub, as proponents and interested parties hear from those on both sides of the issue.
There are plenty of arguments for or against the idea of allowing one to choose his or her time of departure from this mortal coil.
On the one side, the thought of forcing terminally ill people to suffer through the worst stages of ALS, terminal cancer and other debilitating conditions seems akin to relegating family and loved ones to a torturous state.
Those coming from a more conservative or fundamentalist religious background might argue that allowing a sick person to end their own life, with someone’s help, amounts to “playing God.”
It seems self-righteous for people to judge those whose compassionate actions help end another’s struggle with extreme agony, especially in cases where the sufferer has no hope of regaining any quality of life.
As with any controversial decision on human rights – the current illegality of assisted suicide may yet be overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada – there must be checks and balances to prevent abuses and impropriety.
Other countries, such as Switzerland, have taken the step of allowing medical personnel to assist when a terminally ill patient wishes to end their life.
In Canada, a precursor to allowing one to carry out the act could be securing written permission from the ill person’s family doctor, who could not only vouch for their health status, but also document who will be present during the suicide.
Given that human life is involved, laws would have to be enacted to protect such doctors, as well as caregivers and any family members who assist in the act, from prosecution for trying to do the right thing.
It’s not as if people would line up to take advantage of such a change in human rights legislation. At the very least, though, we need to have a more humane option for those whose quality of life has long since ended.