Euthanasia: death with dignity or indecency?

Euthanasia is a heavily debated topic in bioethics, and rightfully so.

The first issue with euthanasia is that it is clouded in stigma. More and more, the concept of assisted suicide is being discussed and recognized globally.

Three states in the U.S have passed ‘Death with Dignity’ acts: Oregon, Washington and Montana. The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand are all jurisdictions that have legalized assisted suicide or euthanasia.

So why not Canada?

Canada is built on a government that is conservative in nature and was derived from religious value systems. Those influences are still heavy in our society even though we boast open-mindedness, acceptance, kindness and justice.

When my great aunt Maria passed away this year, we were able to accept it a little more because in our hearts, we all knew she had been seeking death and an end to her pain for years.

She lived to be 93, was almost deaf and blind and had difficulties eating and speaking. Her memory was incredibly bad, and she had trouble recognizing most of us by the time she passed. Thankfully, we were lucky and so was she because she died in her sleep.

If this had been a legal and viable discussion, I think it would have been debated. Not because we are cruel, or unlawful or wished her to be gone, but because we loved her very much and all wanted to take away her pain.

At the same time, I am well aware of the Roman Catholic values that are part of my family and am aware that many religions deem suicide as immoral and wrong.

In response to that, I’d say that it is immoral and wrong to witness a family member or close friend cry out in pain day after day and to not give them the power back in choosing to die.

People in dire circumstances can accept both faith and logic to overcome personal fears and desires to fulfil the wish of a dying person.

The trauma of witnessing a person in constant pain can result in guilt and grief. For an elderly person who is in such pain that they consider turning to a violent alternative to end their life, there could be a less traumatizing and respectful way to go.

Euthanasia offers a person the chance to regain control of their life and of their suffering through the decision to be assisted by a medical professional.

I do recognize the difficulty that requests to end a person’s life could place on a family member or a doctor. However, medical professionals would be the ideal people to handle this situation because they have the access and knowledge to perform this task respectfully, carefully and without pain.

Euthanasia will continue to be a topic of controversy because of our country’s conservative values and current government. As long as the concept is hidden in hushed tones and behind closed doors, people do not have a way to make an informed and responsible decision.

Elderly people and those with degenerative and painful diseases deserve the right to end their lives on their own terms, with the respect and care of a qualified doctor.

With the provincial government of Quebec looking into legalizing euthanasia procedures, it seems right to discuss the issue with breadth and depth so that people can make informed decisions if these motions pass into other provinces.

The laws would have to include specific guidelines that protect patients from being coerced in any way, or not receiving an ethically sound and legal procedure.

For doctors who have moral objections, they don’t have to participate. However, they might gain comfort in knowing that they were able to offer relief to a person in chronic pain.

The experience could offer family and friends closure because they will know that when their loved ones are ready to die, at their request they can do so peacefully and without pain.

To me, taken in context with the entirety of the laws and explanations, I understand that we have a responsibility to preserve a person’s dignity and to end their suffering if we can do so.