I was in a favour of an assisted-dying law for this country long before one was finally enacted in 2016, which came about as a result of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling that struck down the previous prohibition on medical assistance in dying.
I didn’t think the one we finally got went far enough, in that death had to be imminent, or “reasonably foreseeable” according to the Act, to allow a person to take advantage of it, but
I was happy we finally got one.
I considered it a start, the getting of a foot in the door, with amendments surely to follow, either brought about by further court decisions or more forward thinking in Parliament.
And that is exactly what is transpiring at the moment.
The Superior Court of Quebec in a ruling last fall concluded that it was unconstitutional to allow only Canadians who are already near death to seek medical assistance to end their suffering.
As a result, the federal government launched an online questionnaire, which ended this week, to seek input from Canadians on how the law should be amended.
The online questionnaire asks people to consider what safeguards should be put in place to prevent abuse if the “foreseeable death” requirement is removed from the law, the latter something Prime Minister Justin Trudeau already has said he is willing to do..
It asks people to consider whether someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease should be able to prepare a document detailing the specific circumstances in which they want a medically assisted death to be administered, after they no longer have the capacity to consent.
It asks people to decide if medically assisted deaths should be provided in circumstances where a person who has given consent and whose eligibility has been approved loses the mental capacity to give consent a second time immediately prior to receiving the procedure.
It also asks whether:
The current 10-day period of reflection between requesting and receiving a medically assisted death should be increased.
The law should require that both the medical practitioner and patient agree that other reasonable treatments and options to relieve suffering have been tried without success.
Mandatory psychological or psychiatric assessments should be required to determine capacity to consent.
Mandatory consultation with an expert in a person’s medical condition should be required, in addition to the current mandatory two medical assessments.
Joan Bryden, writing for The Canadian Press, said other issues outside those posed on the questionnaire include whether mature minors and those suffering strictly from mental illnesses should be eligible and whether people who fear losing mental capacity should be able to make advance requests for medical assistance in dying.
She outlined the dilemma faced by Audrey Parker, a Halifax woman with terminal breast cancer that had spread to her brain. She chose to die with medical assistance in the fall of 2018, earlier than she wanted, rather than risk losing the capacity to give last-minute consent.
There are two sides to the medical-assistance-in-dying issue and always will be.
Some will be against it on religious grounds, believing their Lord should be the one who decides when they go, others will be against it because they see it as a slippery slope, what starts out as medical assistance in dying morphing into unchecked euthanasia of the elderly and mentally and physically handicapped.
In the first case, I don’t believe a superior being has anything to do with when a person dies, that either old age or disease determines that. But then that thought mainly comes from the fact I don’t believe in a superior being.
In regard to the slippery-slope argument,. I would say that would only come about if this country lost its democratic government and became ruled by a dictator, something I don’t see happening.
But Deacon Eric Gurash, writing for the Catholic Church a couple of weeks ago, said it was important to note that the “reasonably foreseeable” clause was added in the 2016 legislation to specifically protect people with disabilities, including those with mental health concerns.
He said “The removal of this clause and the proposed expansions of the criteria for eligibility for medically assisted suicide puts those with mental health challenges, the elderly, and the disabled at even greater risk.”
I consider that far out, very far out, but we are all entitled to our opinions.
Mine, of course, goes the other way.
As I said in a column back in 2016:
“Because people here are no different than those elsewhere who have taken advantage of the new legislation, there will be some who, facing a bleak future with painful ending, will want to go out on their own terms.
“I am one of them”.
“I know there are some who believe that man should not meddle in dying, that it is their God’s will how they go.
“Fine. Go out however you want. Just don’t tell me how I should go.”
The older I get, the more I hold to that thought.
The fact that more then 7,000 people in this country have now taken advantage of medically-assisted death shows there is definitely a need for it.
I specifically want to be able to prepare a document dictating the terms of my departure in the event I no longer have the capacity to consent and, likewise, if after my eligibility has been approved and I lose the mental capacity to give consent a second time prior to receiving the procedure, that it can go ahead.
I don’t think that is too much to ask, for myself or anyone else of similar thinking..