The article about Hassan Rasouli hit close to home. [“Doctors fight to remove man from life support”]. Thirteen years ago, I too was on a ventilator and a feeding tube. This was after I was paralyzed by a disease and all four of my doctors felt that I should be removed from life support. Fortunately, my wife requested that one of the doctors ask me first. Although the only thing I could move was my eyelids, I somehow communicated that I was not giving consent.
The doctor who spoke with me told me that there was no chance of recovery, “not even one chance in a million.” He said that if I lived, I would always be respirator dependent and a quadriplegic. Instead, I eventually lost my paralysis and even went back to work. My doctors, excellent doctors with years of experience, were wrong.
According to the article, there is a dispute over whether Mr. Rasouli can communicate. Is he gesturing a “thumbs up” or are his gestures “the automatic reflexes of an irreversibly unconscious man?” When I was first paralyzed, other people attempted to communicate with me by pointing to an alphabet board. Like Mr. Rasouli, my eyes were unfocused. For this reason, I could not see the board and therefore could not make a meaningful response. Perhaps Mr. Rasouli could be asked to move one finger for “yes” and do nothing for “no?” Maybe there is another way he can communicate?
The article also describes how doctors in Canada want the right to withdraw treatment without first getting patient consent. If my doctor had not asked for my consent, I would likely be dead. I hope that your Supreme Court upholds your right of consent.
I was disturbed by Mark Hume's article, "A B.C. family's secret: How they helped their parents die," which treats as a given that a father and mother, who died via secret assisted suicides, wanted to die. We don't know that. What we do know is that the adult children left behind, who state that they fear prosecution, have presented a somewhat loving account of the story. I say somewhat loving because they admittedly allowed their mother to die alone, upstairs, while they gathered together in the kitchen below.
In my life, I have not experienced children who "helped their parents to die." I have, however, had contact with women abused by their spouses, who outright deny that the abuse occurs. The victim protects the perpetrator. I have an older friend who wired $5000 to a stranger who had phoned impersonating her grandson. Yes, she acted voluntarily to send the money, but she had been manipulated to do so. When she later realized what had happened, she was so embarrassed, it took her three weeks to tell me. The money was long gone. But it was only money and not her life.
The Government of Canada website describes elder abuse as a widespread and hidden problem. The abuse is often perpetrated by family members such as the adult children described in Humes' article. We can't stop the abuse now. Relaxing our laws on assisted suicide will only increase it. I can only hope that our country does not take this course.
Mark Hume's article cheering on the anonymous family "forced" to kill their parents is a not-so-subtle endorsement of the current challenge to our laws against assisted suicide and euthanasia. The article is titled "A.B.C.'s family's secret: how they helped their parents die." My question is, what were the family's other "secrets"? How much did they inherit, who got the house, or were the killings done as payback for long past wrongs? Elder abuse is a terrible problem in this country and the scenario I describe is not uncommon.
Hume's article also ignores that older people are already being killed in our health care facilities via dehydration, starvation, and/or morphine overdose. For one instance, see this article in the Winnipeg Free Press, "Alleged deprivation of senior probed: Denied food, water in hospital." (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/alleged-deprivation-of-senior-probed-132297303.html ) My own mother had a similar experience in an extended care facility in Nova Scotia. A mild stroke led to her forced starvation and dehydration. It didn't matter that she was conscious and trying to speak, or that she had indicated she wanted water.
As evidenced by the overreaching doctors described in the above article and my mother's experience, some doctors cannot be trusted with the power they already have. Legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia will give them even more power to effect patient death. The idea that legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia will somehow increase patient choice and autonomy is a society gone mad.
Canadian assisted suicide proponents lost a bid to legalize assisted suicide through Parliament last year.This year, they turned to the courts to challenge Canada’s laws against assisted suicide and euthanasia as unconstitutional.The case is now before the Canadian court in Vancouver and the proceedings began November 14, 2011.Plaintiffs include a woman with ALS.
The public debate is well underway.On November 13, the Calgary Herald published an op ed by three opponents of legalization entitled “Why we should be afraid of assisted suicide.” The authors describe the case as follows:
Carter vs. Attorney General of Canada brings a constitutional challenge to Canada's laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia. The case also seeks to legalize these practices as a medical treatment. Last year, a bill in Parliament seeking a similar result was overwhelmingly defeated…. The vote was 228 to 59.
Carter seeks to allow a medical practitioner or a person "acting under the general supervision of a medical practitioner" to assist a patient's suicide. … In the context of traditional medical treatment, "a person acting under the general supervision of a medical practitioner" would include a family member. …
As the authors point out, eligibility would not be limited to people whose condition is terminal:
In Carter, the amended notice of civil claim argues that laws prohibiting physician-assisted suicide are unconstitutional for patients who are "grievously and irremediably ill." The term is not defined. The amended notice of civil claim does, however, give these examples of qualifying diseases/ conditions: "cancer, chronic renal failure and/or cardiac failure, and degenerative neurological diseases such as Huntington's disease and multiple sclerosis." The phrase "grievously and irremediably ill" would also appear to apply to chronic conditions such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS. People who have these diseases and conditions can have years and, sometimes, decades to live.
In response to this op ed, James Swanson, a man with a severely disabled father and friend, sent an angry letter filled with the rhetoric of disability bigotry, which the Herald’s editors entitled “Trapped alive”: