I wish those campaigning for my right to end my life when it becomes
unbearable would show a little more restraint than they've shown recently. Dying with Dignity has called the June 15 decision of B.C. Supreme Court
Justice Lynn Smith, that the law against physician-aided death is
unconstitutional, a "stunning victory."
I think the right-to-die movement isn't served by this kind of talk. If this
is a war, I don't know who the enemy is.
I don't believe that those in our society who think that life, even when
sadly depleted, has great value, or our legislators, who have decreed that
euthanasia is a crime, set out to tyrannize or brutalize anyone.
I do, indeed, dread the possibility, or probability, of having to put up with
a severely degraded, drugged and plugged-in existence that I no longer recognize
as a life because others have decided that's how it must be. I don't understand why those who may be authorized, one day, to write "do not
resuscitate" on my chart, can't be authorized to write "terminate," if that's
the way I want it.
But this is what I, fairly hale and almost hearty, can say now. I don't know
how I'll feel when things get really bad.
I don't know if I'll be able to express whatever feelings I have at what
should or could be the end.
My father, a physician, took a long time to die. What he was suffering, he
said on the last day I saw him, Hitler should have gone through.
After he'd gone, my mother found a syringe and fatal drug dose that he'd
hidden. Had he changed what obviously what was in his mind at one stage? Or had
he left it too late?
Some approaching nearer to death don't lose courage, but gain it. They claim
no right to dignity. They claim the right to live, to die trying.
Smith found the current provisions against physician-aided suicide or
voluntary euthanasia unconstitutional because they unjustifiably infringe the
Charter equality rights of Gloria Taylor, an ALS victim among other plaintiffs,
and her right to life, liberty and security of the person.
So what has changed since 1993, when the Supreme Court of Canada found the
current law didn't violate the rights of Sue Rodriguez, another ALS victim, who
subsequently found a doctor to help her die?
Public opinion? Polls since then on the issue are all over the map, partly
because of the way the question is put, partly because their "samples" are
Dying with Dignity sees a conspiracy in recent polls, such as the CBC one
released the same day as Smith's decision, suggesting nearly 75 per cent of us
don't want the law changed. It might be an "organized effort" by those opposed
"to load responses" and influence public opinion, its website sneered. Should polls guide our legislators deciding life or death issues, like this
one, abortion and capital punishment? I recall no overwhelming demand for ending
the death penalty when Parliament did so in 1976. Should it be reinstated
because 61 per cent of those polled by Angus Reid in February think it should
What seems to have changed, if Smith's decision is upheld, is the courts'
view of the Charter as a "living tree" on which new branches seem to be
sprouting constantly. She found that cases since 1993 have discovered the
principles that laws must not be "overbroad" or "grossly disproportionate," and
she found the Criminal Code ban on physician-assisted death to be both.
Even with safeguards such as second opinions and monitoring, the evidence
shows "risks" to the vulnerable - inability to make an informed decision,
coercion, a wrong assessment of "voluntariness" - exist.
But they can be largely avoided. Is "largely" enough?
The Charter acknowledges in its preamble "the supremacy of God." Not all of
us presume to do, or undo, His works.
Love and humanity moves those touched by lives now ending. They want to keep
close those who are going, even when love and humanity urge them to release
those longing to go.
What parliament, what court, can confine or comfort a soul in distress? email@example.com