Living will: make it a legal document

“Eureka”! Finally, in 2015, The Supreme Court of Canada has decided unanimously, what it should have passed years ago. It’s declared that doctor-assisted voluntary euthanasia (DAVE) isn’t an illegal act. But this ruling is already facing opposition from a variety of sources. The perfect solution is to make the Living Will a truly legal document that cannot be contested.

It’s been said that war is too dangerous to be left to generals. In this case, the court’s decision is too important to be left to the whims of provincial politicians who have one year to draft new legislation.

First, in the interest of humanity, politicians federal and provincial, should quickly draft legislation allowing those who are currently terminally ill to have the choice of DAVE. But the Harper government is on record that it is opposed to doctor-assisted voluntary suicide. Putting it bluntly, politicians are saying, “Let them suffer the agony of dying for another year.” A shameful delay.

During the next year leaders of advocacy groups for the disabled will claim that their right to life is threatened. A ludicrous argument, as it’s never happened in those countries that allow DAVE. It’s even more ludicrous when you consider the majority of their members (85%) want the choice of DAVE.

The spokespeople for disability organizations should realize that pain is just as real whether you’re in or out of a wheelchair.

But I have often wondered how many who resist this sympathetic procedure change their minds in their final days. It’s easy to be against assisted euthanasia when you’re pain free.

Some doctors will also shout hard and long about the sanctity of life. It’s incredible that doctors who witness long and painful deaths can be so adamant about prolonging suffering.

So, what’s the best solution to protect the rights of everyone? It’s a Living Will which must become a binding legal document. Those opposed to DAVE need not sign one. It clearly spells out the rights of patients, and groups like Dying With Dignity Canada will ensure those rights are upheld.

The Living Will, signed by competent seniors, leaves no doubt what treatment is expected at the end of life. It does not require many pages to get the message across. As Albert Einstein remarked, “It should be simple, but not too simple.”

For example, just telling your family you do not want heroic measures taken to prolong your life is too simple.

The Gifford-Jones Living Will is a long one-page document, a Living Will prayer, which leaves no question about what you want done in your final days. That you have no desire to be treated by a physician dedicated to prolonging your last breath. And that you want sufficient painkillers even though they may hasten death.

It further states that you have no desire to be left immobilized staring at the ceiling for months, maybe years, unable to feed yourself or scratch your nose while waiting for the heart to stop.

I have written in the past that we have a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Gifford-Jones Living Will, on becoming a legal document, would provide the same protection to humans. The point is to get a living will from someone, and sign it. Then give copies to your doctor, lawyer and family members. If your doctor is opposed, search for another physician.

You should also have a frank discussion with all your children. If one disagrees with your wishes, now is the time to find out. If this is the case, you should state in the living will that this child must be excluded from the decision of how you want your life terminated.

The Gifford-Jones Living Will can be obtained by sending a self-addressed envelope with $10 to Giff Holdings, 65 Harbour Square, Suite 1110, Toronto, Ontario, M5J 2L4

See the website www.dyingwithdignity.ca.

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