Friday, June 29, 2012

Euthanasia is neither progress nor civility

The following article was written by author and political commentator Claire Hoy and published in the Caledon Citizen on June 28.


Its neither progress nor civility.

Claire Hoy
By Claire Hoy

Rules, as everyone knows, really are made to be broken. So all those naive folks who argue that giving doctors the right to kill people who are tired of living is fine because – wait for it – all you need to do is make sure you have the right rules in place to protect the innocent.

Yeah, right. That’s why a May 2010 study published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association found that 32 per cent – nearly one in three – of euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium occurred without request or consent.

Indeed, another study published in the British Medical Journal in October 2010 found that 47 per cent – almost half – of euthanasia deaths in the same region of Belgium were simply not reported.

But how can this be? The law is clear. The rules are there for all to see. No can kill another person without their express consent and the approval of medical officials.

So don’t be fooled by those who say the rules will protect people. They won’t. Pick a law, any law, and you know darn well that the details often get lost in the shuffle. Sometimes it’s not such a big deal. But when we’re dealing with life or death, well, that is a big deal.

The issue of euthanasia, you likely know, is back into the public forum again despite Parliament having made it clear they don’t favor the concept. But that didn’t matter to an unelected and unaccountable British Columbia judge – whose wisdom clearly outshines the collective wisdom of Parliament – and who ruled in favor of 64-year-old Gloria Taylor’s request for physician-assisted suicide should she decide to end her battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or, as it’s widely known, Lou Gehrig’s disease.)

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith says Taylor, unlike anyone else in Canada, can legally get a doctor to help her kill herself. As for the rest of the country, she gave Parliament a year to come up with a new law which fits her definition of what is and what isn’t constitutional.

A few countries and a few U.S. states do allow physician-assisted suicide, but most of the civilized world, wisely, has stayed away from heading down that terribly slippery slope.

One of the realities of dying in modern times is that palliative care has become so good that there is no real reason to suffer undue pain. And it’s the fear of suffering painful deaths that prompts many people to argue for legalizing euthanasia.

But some of the places that use euthanasia have spent less time and effort developing better palliative care than everybody else. After all, why worry about keeping dying people comfortable when you can just stick a needle in them if their discomfort drives them to that extreme? To be sure, nobody would put it in those stark terms, but no matter how you define it, that’s the reality.

Then there’s the issue of the severly disabled who often aren’t mentally capable of making such a momentous decision and may have to rely on others to make it for them. And how about old Aunt Jane, whose been hanging on forever it seems, while the heirsto be stew about when the old lady will finally croak and they’ll get what’s coming to them. Sounds to harsh to be real? Hah. It happens now, even without legalizing the practice.

People do say that even as things stand doctors and family often decide to stop giving somebody medicine at a certain stage or, as they saying goes, to “pull the plug.” They confuse that with the active involvement of a doctor killing somebody who, without the intervention, wouldn’t be dying. It’s one thing to stop keeping people alive artificially via machine or drugs; it’s quite another to actually kill somebody who would otherwise be alive.

They’re not the same thing. One is reasonable; the other is essentially state-sanctioned murder. Well, not murder as we know it, since that’s a legal term and killing somebody legally wouldn’t be murder, would it? But under the current law it is murder and murder it should remain.

Advocates call it “dying with dignity,” as if dying naturally is by definition undignified.

1 comment:

Janet McDonough said...

Mr.Hoy, what a great article. Was this lady Judge very young? I have found that many people, in favour of legal assisted suicide, are young and believe in the freedom to determine their own death circumstances. They do not seem to think ahead when they will become old and very close to normal death. Many people live with pain but prefer that instead of suicide.