Just saying ‘no’ or just saying ‘yes’

Nancy Reagan, wife of Ronald Reagan, former President of the United States, sent a direct, simple message to those who were tempted to take illegal drugs.

Her advice was “Just say ‘NO’.”

So what has this message to do with the ongoing controversy about assisted death in Canada and the United States?

Quebec, a Roman Catholic province, has always been ahead of the rest of Canada in social change.

Now it appears that it won’t be too long before Quebec will be the first province to allow assisted death. But for the rest of Canada, those opposed to it will use every legal measure to defeat this procedure. So is there any way that the two opposing forces, for and against assisted death, can ever be resolved?

The main argument used by those who vociferously oppose assisted death is that the slippery slope theory will prevail. Namely, that the infirm, elderly and those approaching death, who do not want their lives to be terminated, will have no say in the decision and be forced to have a lethal injection.

How could this scenario be prevented?

Albert Einstein remarked that, “Explanations should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.” So can this continuing dilemma be made simpler?

Surely it doesn’t take someone trained in bioethics, a psychologist or a spiritual leader to make this problem simpler. If there is one ounce of common sense left in this country the only logical answer is the ‘NO’ or ‘YES’ solution.

Let’s assume that an individual is 100% against assisted death and wants to be assured it will never happen to him. Surely there are enough lawyers who feel the same way who could draft a binding legal document. It would state that under no circumstance could assisted death be used when an individual had signed such a document. In other words, a legal document that leaves no ‘ifs, ands or buts’ in the decision.

If this legal document still failed to appease fears, a simple hand or neck bracelet could be worn, similar to the ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ one, stating they refused assisted death.

So what about those who feel it is their right, and no one else’s right, to decide how they wish to end their lives. Here again a legal document could be made available which allows a signature on the dotted line and no ‘if, ands or buts.’

I believe Albert Einstein would agree this approach is simple, but not too simple.

Politicians, doctors and religious organizations would not be able to deny the ‘yes’ right to those who request it.

So will this happen?

Probably not! As sure as night follows day the government will continue to waste millions of dollars on endless committee hearings. The money could be better spent on medical care.

Are Einstein and this medical journalist wrong to expect a simple answer?

In effect, those opposed to assisted death don’t want a simple answer or any answer. In the end assisted death is a religious issue claiming it cannot be condoned for anyone under any circumstances.

If that is the case those of us who wish to end our lives with the help of a physician are denied. And desperate people will continue to choose the alternative, suicide. This is a tragic situation that no family should have to face.

As I’m a member of ‘dignitas’, lethal injection is available to me in Switzerland if I ever need it. But in a democratic society, what about those who cannot afford the one-way ticket?

It is unconscionable that assisted death should even be an issue when a simple ‘no’ or ‘yes’ would suffice. Unfortunately, common sense has become an uncommon commodity in North American society and this continues to prolong the agony of the dying.

It is also unconscionable that the organization ‘Dying with Dignity’ has lost its charitable status which makes its operation more difficult.

What do you think? For comments go to info@docgiff.com.

For those wishing to support DWD, its address is 55 Eglinton Ave East, Suite 802, Toronto, Ontario, M4P 1G8 or online at www.dyingwithdignity.ca. For information, email info@docgiff.com.