SULTAN JESSA: Assisted dying

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The controversial question of assisted dying was first raised in Quebec more than four years ago.

And before that there were rumblings of euthanasia in the country but Ottawa ignored this.

After numerous discussions, public hearings and media and public campaigns, Quebec, Canada’s second largest province, is ready to lead the way.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in Canada.

And the federal government has repeatedly stressed it has no plans to change those laws.

Quebec is now ready with the “act” respecting the end of life.

This makes the province one of the few in the world to allow doctors to end a terminally ill patient’s life by lethal injection.

However, it is not going to be that simple.

There are strict regulations on this “act” will be administered.

It will take another two years before this “act” is put into practice.

And even with this “act” it will not be easy since the criteria to qualify will be strict.

In recent years, public opinion has been changing.

Other countries and states that that already have laws on assisted suicide and medically assisted dying include Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Oregon and Montana.

Last August, the country’s leading doctor’s group, the Canadian Medical Association, voted against wading into the debate about doctor-assisted death, rejecting a motion at its annual meeting that would have called on all levels of government to hold public hearings into “medical aid in dying.”

I don’t think there is nothing wrong about having a healthy debate and hearing arguments from people who are in favour or against assisted dying.

Many national TV stations have been doing a series on pros and cons of assisted dying.

This is a healthy sign.

Quebec and Ontario openly discuss this controversial and extremely sensitive issue.

A few months ago, a prominent doctor’s impassioned videotaped appeal to legalize assisted suicide just a few days before his death has reopened this emotionally charged debate.

Dr. Donald Low, who shepherded Toronto through the 2003 SARS crisis, asked that Canada allow people to die with dignity.

He died from a brain tumor at the age of 68.

Low, no doubt, put a human face on this sensitive issue.

The recording was filmed eight days before he died.

“What worries me is how I am going to die,” he said.

“Am I going to have trouble swallowing? I won’t be able to take in food. What the end is going to look like, that’s what’s bothering me the most.”

Low said he hoped to die a painless death in his sleep. He hoped to face death without the fear of death itself.

But, he worried death would be long and protracted, and that he would not be able to carry out his normal bodily functions.

Low said he wished those who opposed doctor-assisted death, including doctors, could “live in my body for 24 hours.”

The doctor made a compassionate and heartfelt appeal to change the Criminal Code and allow assisted suicide in Canada.

More than 20 years have passed since the Supreme Court of Canada told Sue Rodriguez she had no legal right to take her own life.

She was told in 1961 she had Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The Victoria woman made national headlines and captured the public’s attention by asking a simple question.

“If I cannot give consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?”

Organizations: Canadian Medical Association, Supreme Court of Canada

Geographic location: Quebec, Canada, Ottawa Switzerland Belgium Holland Oregon Ontario Toronto Victoria

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  • Amy Hasbrouck
    February 27, 2014 - 15:40

    Euthanasia and assisted pose a danger to people with disabilities, who constitute 100% of those who are euthanized, whether or not the person also has a terminal illness. Such measures are unnecessary because people can already refuse medical treatment and request palliative sedation. Rather than killing pain, these laws kill people. The "choice" offered by such legislation is an illusion where effective pain management is not available to those who need it, and social supports to enable people to live in their own homes with the help they need does not exist. Bill 52 will make back-room euthanasia easier to cover up, as happens in countries where euthanasia is already legal. Finally, allowing euthanasia and assisted suicide– creates a state-imposed double standard where non-disabled people who ask to die are met with suicide prevention services, while old, ill and disabled people who are suicidal are helped to die. Every major disability rights organization in North America agrees, euthanasia and assisted suicide discriminate against people with disabilities and are bad public policy.