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Two Sides to the Assisted Suicide Debate

February 24, 2015
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Canada’s-Changing-Perspective-on-EuthanasiaIt was just a few days into the month of February, 2015 when one of the most controversial debates of the 21st century came to a head. When federal government lifted the ban on assisted suicide throughout Canada, millions of citizens were left to think about how such an epic change would reshape the nation’s future.

Some supporters of assisted suicide celebrated a victory, offering several opinions about how the official legislation, due one year from now, should read. Those in opposition took to media channels, publishing their concerns in newspapers and on blogsites, receiving many views and prominent headlines.

To this day, the disability community seems to have mixed emotions about the ruling; some people report feeling liberated while others express feelings of dread. This may be because assisted suicide has huge implications for people with disabilities.

On February 6, The Star wrote about who this legislation will directly affect:

… the ruling applies broadly in cases of a major illness, disease or disability that inflicts intolerable physical or psychological suffering on a patient.

Taking this explanation into consideration, the question we want to ask is this: does assisted suicide intend to liberate the disability community or does it degrade a person with disability’s right to life?

These are the two sides of the debate we need to explore. As the dust seems to be settling since the initial ruling, it is important to continue reflecting on how people in Canada’s disability community feel about assisted suicide legislation and ask what this means for the future of people with disabilities in Canada.

Pro Assisted Suicide

The official name of this court case is Carter vs. Canada. In 2011, Lee Carter was one of three plaintiffs to challenge the Criminal Code of Canada for banning assisted suicide. At the time, the criminal code stated, “Every one who … aids or abets a person to commit suicide … is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.” This concerned Lee Carter who took her mother (who suffered from severe symptoms related to Spinal Stenosis) to Switzerland so that a physician could lawfully assist with her suicide. Fear that she might be charged (in Canada) for doing something she considered right prompted Lee to change nationwide legislation.

Many people agree with Lee Carter, calling physician assisted suicide a “dignified” death. Some people who suffer from significant disability that may be the result of illness or disease require care from the people around them and medical facilities. A person who needs around-the-clock care but retains enough health to continue living, may consider this lifestyle degrading and might want to choose to die a “respectable” death.

Against Assisted Suicide

People opposed to assisted suicide do not consider it “dignified” or “respectable.” In some circumstances they have referred to it as alarming and sad. One of these advocates is executive director of the CPD (Coalition of Persons with Disabilities), Kelly White. The Telegram reports White saying, “To me it says that all persons with a serious disability in Canada can access assisted suicide, or whoever’s caring for them.” This statement does a good job summing up the fear the fills some Canadians who believe disability is not a death sentence. With the option to pursue assisted suicide options should the disability cause intolerable physiological or physical suffering, a spotlight shines on the inabilities people with disabilities struggle with rather than the unique abilities they spend years fostering.

Again, The Telegram offers an opinion about why people from the disability community are outraged by this verdict, saying:

Marie Ryan, former chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, is dismayed the word “disability” is included in the clause to begin with. “We have spent generations trying to remove disability from a medical model. This has put it right back there…”

Where do you stand on Assisted Suicide?

What took place in Canada on February 6 is the beginning of a yearlong conversation about assisted suicide. Now legislators have one year to write a law that encompasses how assisted suicide might be used in specific health-related circumstances.

In the meantime, it is important to continue talking about what assisted suicide is and how it impacts the disability community. As the debate continues to strike chords and raise emotions, we are interested to know your opinion. Where do you stand on assisted suicide? Are you for it? Are you against it?

41 Comments. Leave new

I believe the individual should have the right to choose. For certain circumstances, it’s a mercy. NO government agency should be responsible for deciding how much pain you must endure.

Terry MacKenzie
February 25, 2015 2:34 pm

I personally AGREE with assisted suicide. It’s about time a person has the right to choose. We are kinder to our animals then we are to human beings who are suffering terribly.

My cousin passed away this week after suffering from muscular dystrophy for 32 yrs. She had several broken bones just from turning her over, bed sores up her back exposing her spine, without high doses of meds she would be in excruciating pain, as well as continuous seizures. She was unable to eat or drink. She was on a ventilator to assist her breathing without it she would not be unable to breathe on her own.
Assisted suicide would have been a blessing.

Eriena O'Reilly
February 25, 2015 2:38 pm

I work in Longterm care in a gov. Nursing home in the Martimes. I see the elderly persons strugglule with emotional, phyisical, mental, disabilities everyday. The important thing to remember is that is two sides to this issue. The question I ask myself is… Who has the rite to take a life? I belive the answer for me is I do with the right counselling from a trusted physician. I belive a person knows when their quality of life is coming ,they must be respected to the right thing for themselves…Eriena

Brenda Levesque Semple
February 25, 2015 2:39 pm

First off, lets remove the word suicide, it is assisted dying or end of life assistance. I can imagine that some folks are in dread – but needlessly. This is a law that would provide everyone with the choice – remember, it is a choice – as a human in a terminal health situation to either go on using life extending methods or prevent unwanted suffering and treatment at the expense of quality of life. I, for one, applaud this. However, that being said, I would hope and pray, that each case be judged on its own merits – ie the rights of seriously and terminally ill children, or persons with dementia (last stages) who have not previously discussed this choice with family members. I think this is a step forward in quality of life and dying with dignity.

I’m pro choice – so yes I support the change in the law. I work in healthcare and I’ve watched too many people waste away and suffer in the last weeks and months of their lives. It’s humane to offer this choice – a dignified and empathetic choice.

Linda P. Leslie
February 25, 2015 2:52 pm

I definitely am in favour of assisted right for everone who wishes to be given the choice , especially when it has been made clear to their Doctor, and family. Please give human beings that option when they are knowing what lies ahead. How dare we even question the decision made by anyone who wishes to die peacefully, no longer suffering, and also relieve family members any guilt that they might feel if it was left up to them to decide. I am totally for giving assistance to those people who would otherwise not be able to assist themselves to give a lethal dose. Come on people, how dignified is it to watch a family member die before your eyes for month after month as my brother did with ALS. This was an insult to him, and the fact he was unable to do it himself. I am all for assisted suicide.. Amen.

I am for assisted suicide for those who are suffering an unbearable health condition provided safety guards are in place to prevent a third party with a personal agenda signing off on it. Eg financial benefit.

Beverley charron
February 25, 2015 5:06 pm

I am for assisted-suicide

I think that it depends on the severity of the illness whether assisted suicide should be a consideration or not. It is a tough call to make when there is another person’s life involved.

I am totally “FOR” doctor assisted Suicide. It can’t come soon enough!

I have lived with a disability all my life. I have been subject to many adverse comments and have been terminated from several employers. 15 years ago I was deemed “unemployable” and awarded a disability pension. As such I am now a liability to Canada Pension Plan. I wonder how long it will be before it will be more convenient to release the Canadian government from such a liability. I know that the pro-assisted suicide camp would assure me that such a scenario would never happen in Canada. It occurs to me that such was the argument in the Republic of Germany 75 years ago. In the matter of persons who cannot make such decisions for themselves – will family members be allowed to make that decision for them? Will the medical system be allowed to make such decisions?

I’m pro assisted suicide as it preserves our dignity.

I have always felt that if an individual is suffering from a condition that is unable to be rectified that person should have the option to assisted suicide. It should also be the families option to do so if that person cannot for some reason advise authorities what they would like to have done to put them out of the suffering condition what ever it may be.

No to assisted suicide

I think it’s a cruel and insensitive way of getting rid of a love one because of a disability they did not ask for, but unfortunately happen to them! and the people who you think love you are fed up and tired of caring for you want to get rid of you by assisted sucide. How sad in a beautiful world with cruel people we happen to live in.!

I am for assisted suicide as long as it is each individuals choice or in the best interest of the individual if they are unable to voice their choice. At these times the parent/guardian and physician should be able to make the choice.

I have volunteered at a long term care home and one resident, in particular, just wanted to die and he would cry because he was too healthy. He did need a wheel chair He would say hings about boredom. What was he supposed to do?

Walter & Rose Diener
February 25, 2015 6:52 pm

We are NOT in favor of Assisted Suicide being made legal.

I totally agree if a person with a total physical or mental disabilities any age wish to have assisted suicide.

if people choose to end their life in a case that they are in so much pain and can not take it anymore well then I am all for it but if it is a chicken way out of life just to say you cannot deal with the fact you have an illness then I am not for it really depends on the situation so basically I do say yes for those who cannot do anything for themselves so they don’t have to lay there in pain and think if they are going to wake up the next morning or not let them make the right choice no one should let people suffer like that

I am 60 years old and in great health. All my life, from the time that I was a young girl, I have been adamant that bodies belong to PEOPLE and not to the government or religious factions. Every person alive should have the right to decide when the time is right to move on to the next thing, regardless of beliefs or laws. I have had in place, in Europe, for many years, a plan on heading off to the universe when I decide. Me, myself and I. No one else. I have a Living Will in Place and believe me, everyone knows my mind on this matter. I don’t care if one makes the decision from illness, pain or depression or because they are just plain fed up. Our living or dying belongs to us and not to the government. Oh… and all you physicians out there quoting the Hippocratic Oath might try reading that oath in FULL. It is not ungodly suicide and shameful, it is not an indictable offence, it is simply and finally……. a choice.

I am against assisted suicide. Whats next? Eliminate people with disability and later old people after 65? Assisted suicide is murder…

I have been disabled and in pain for over 25 years. I really cannot look after my self and don’t want to end up in a nursing home in more pain. I want the new bill passed so that when my turn comes I will have the option on how and if I want to live or die.

I am pro assisted Suiside

We are by far kinder to our pets then we are to human companions! If our pet is sick and will not recover or we do not want to look after them; they are given a needle and that is it. I have experienced this on 2 occasions; not easy but they are better off.
I have had the dishonor of visting friends and relatives that have no chance of recovery nor any sort of Life! They were unconcius and everyone was waiting for them to take their last breath! Hard on everybody and undignified for the dying. We do not want to let go and they are hanging on for us. I have seen distinguished gentlemen who came through war and other disasters; they always took care in their grooming and dress! To see them laying there with mouth agap drawing there soon to be last breath. Where is the dignity in this; let them go onto arms of Jesus!

It’s a slippery slope that should not be taken. Assisted “dying” is helping someone to end their life. Next will come “assisted” murder because someone was born not quite perfect or just “to put them out of their misery or a life not worth living” according to someone else’s definition of “life”.
No, I don’t agree with this and never will. May God have mercy on those that do.

As a person who has become disabled over a period of time, I can speak to the anguish of “quality of life” diminishing. While I agree with the new legislation for personal choice, I am also aware of what a slippery slope this could become without clearer language and better guidelines. Let’s not be afraid of this, but get it right, please.

Ethel de la Penotiere
February 25, 2015 11:46 pm

It seems ironic all medical agency serving it’s fellow man when rescuing patience is required to resuscitate. A signature scribed on a form that says DO NOT RESUSCITATE is not the first reaction REGARDLESS of the legal document, a question may be why did they call? Canada has been proud of it’s stand on “life to live tomorrow.” We do not believe in the death penalty.
Now other countries say it’s OK for Dr. Suicide to end your life. This precedence says our government has to agree with the rest of the world. Why is Canada not willing mto stand up for DIFFERENT! Can we not keep our culture of “life to live tomorrow” because we believe in it? Will our next precedence be changing the death penalty? I caution Canada you are sliding into listening to other countries not deciding what’s best for Canadians “DIFFERENT”

I think it’s a good option to have it should be the person and there family’s say not the government say

As an adult with 5 medical conditions (hidden) I have sometimes found the judgement of my limits intolerable. Often I have wanted escape. Also, I understand the need to respect others, especially their valuing of human life and respect for religious beliefs. I know many face greater challenges than I. I believe, ultimately the choice is that of the patient with support of their doctor.

I believe a person who is able to make the decision to not carry on with a lengthy illness or a person has no quality of life should be given the chance to end it and seek peace in God’s arms.

There are so many people who are suffering and wish they could end their suffering but cannot for various reasons. I believe that people who are living their life in constant pain from an incurable disease, injuries that leave them without the ability to care for themselves and require 24/7 care OR have a terminal illness that causes them unbearable pain and discomfort should be offered the option for end-of-life assistance. They deserve the right to choose to live or die with dignity. I also don’t agree with the words “assisted suicide”. I prefer the use of “end-of-life assistance”.

It has always seemed strange that at the end we treat animals better than people. If a person left an animal in as much pain and discomfort as some people must endure they would charged with cruelty to animals. Doesn’t a person deserve the same compassion.

This is a tough question. My life includes laying unconcious in a hospital bread, having help , eating, going to the bathroom and my brain swollen. Did my parents say let me go? No, I recovered and have lived a fairly normal life.
But if I was laying in a hospital bed, with a machine keeping my heart, lungs and remaining body parts working, I think I would rather leave this world and join the next.
The law needs to be written so it is a decision made by the individual, after conversation with their spiritual confidant, physician, and family. After many checks and balances are completed, then dying with dignity would be my choice. I have also watched a family member kept alive after a brain anerism. She was unconcious, and had so many wires attached to her, that I said my good-byes to her, knowing I would never have another conversation with her. In agony, the family waited for her to take her last breath, a very long agonizing time for everyone.

end of life assistance,I agree witrh this TERM! When an individual feels or can`t really
function,cope,with Pain,without drugs…then why prolong that persons` suffering?
I have had pain every day since 1992,no pain killers,not contibuting to society.Not,because
I won`t ,but ,rather because I can`t. I had ”angioplasty” last year,due to 88% blockage
on my left side,with 2 stents put in.NO ! I do not enjoy life and many times have thought
end of life assistance,should be my choice,not the government,it`s between me and
myself.I would love bto contribute rather than be a burden .or shelved away,this is not
the life,that was/is intentented for any humam.And that is but just 1 of many of my disablities!!

I am all for dying with dignity and not suffering. I am for assisted suicide.

for all those who are fear mongeringI ask this — haveyou ever had some one you love deeply suffer so much that you can not do any thingfor – suffer and die in front of you — well I have– and I firmly believe in the right to die. We will not be the first country to bring in this option. In none of the other counyties has tjere been an all ot attack on the frail or other wise infirm so let me have the option should I ever need it, just like any thing in life it is your choise.

I applaud the Supreme Court Ruling. I also know concerns of those with disabilities must heard. We will never allow the madness of Nazi Germany to surface because we honour the voices of those who matter.

I am in totally in favor of assisted suiside. As I have saw to many of my family members suffer enduring pain and suffering. I myself am going that way soon enough, with a crippling disease. I do not want to suffer years of pain, and not be any use on scociety, or family.

Michelle St.Pierre
June 3, 2015 2:39 am

I myself have Rheumatoid Arthritis and other ailments and I believe that assisted suicide is a choice which the person should be able to make that decision on how and when they want to leave this world. The person who has a disability only knows the day to day pain they go through and the many challenges they go through. I’m 100% for Assisted Suicide make it 200%. Michelle St.Pierre

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