3 Comments

  1. Because apparently my commentary is too long to post all together, I will post it in multiple sections. This is the second part.

    The right to liberty and security of person do not guarantee one the right to be killed either. One’s person is NOT secure when one is being killed. The right to liberty is not limitless either. If it was, then the Supreme Court should be consistent and allow anyone over 18 the freedom to choose to be killed (why restrict it to those with terminal illnesses?), decriminalize all drugs, and demand that the government recognize incestuous and polygamous marriages. After all, freedom to choose, right? (And yes, that would mean the Supreme Court essentially mandating libertarianism for Canada… see what happens when you let them make the rules?) The government has a responsibility to protect individual rights and freedoms but it also must balance these with the well-being of the public. If some of its citizens want to be killed, instead of aiding them in their goal, the government should do what it can to change their desire (as the government tries to change the desire of smokers). This means killing the pain, not the patient. We should eliminate the suffering, not the sufferer. Tackle the problem, not the victim of it. How do we do this? Palliative care, which, as Spencer said, we need more of, not less of. Palliative care is how Canada really ensures that vulnerable individuals are safe.

    Additionally, the prohibition would only violate Section 15 of the Charter if the “right to be killed” really was a right. Equality is not constitutionally ensured for that which is not a right (eg. becoming a sky diving instructor, travelling to Cuba in a yacht, etc.).

    I would also disagree with you, Cara, that the judges involved in this case represent Canadians. I never elected any of them. In fact, at no point in time did we Canadians ever get input as to whether they represent us or not. Whether their decisions are reflective of our best interests is up for debate, but I think it makes a lot more sense to let us decide what our best interests are.

    Doctors may not be playing God and willy-nilly killing everyone, but they can do so. The ways in which they may do this are subtle. They can overemphasize the severity of a diagnosis or even prescribe fewer painkillers than what is needed in order to increase the chances of a patient requesting assisted suicide. Their intentions need not be malicious. Perhaps they do so for the sake of efficiency, because there is a great demand for beds in our hospitals and doctors would rather see them go to patients with a chance of recovery. Perhaps the doctor genuinely thinks death would be better for a patient. Perhaps the doctor simply doesn’t like him or her. Sure, doctors always had this capacity to manipulate patients, but now the stakes are so much higher because the outcome of assisted suicide and euthanasia is of course, fatal. As these gentle nudges in the direction of death are so hard to catch, there is no way to protect the vulnerable from abuse or error. (Also, see my above ALS example in which the law is followed but the vulnerable are not protected either.)

    I must also take issue with: “While Canada prides itself on maintaining the sanctity of life and ensuring vulnerable individuals are safe, the distinction between a small ailment and what the court referred to as ‘grievous and irremediable medical conditions’ is unmistakable.” Regardless of whether you think abortion is justifiable or not, the unborn are distinct human beings (this is scientifically proven) and thus, Canada, with its complete absence of a law on abortion, has not maintained the sanctity of life and has not ensured that vulnerable individuals are safe. (There are other examples I could bring up regarding how Canada has failed the vulnerable– like the missing First Nations women and the mentally ill.) And yes, while there is a distinction between a small ailment and a grievous and irremediable medical condition, the line between them is blurred. While we know a grain of sand is not a pile, we cannot say exactly when grains of sand become a pile. Likewise, when does a medical condition become grievous and irremediable? For example, while there are many, many people living with Diabetes (for it is irremediable), when it is in a late stage, sufferers may go blind, lose sensation in their legs and feet (or experience pain) and because of nerve damage and poor circulation, develop skin ulcers, sores, and bruising. Eventually, their organs may fail. Is that grievous? At what point does it become so, Cara?

    Some common ground: I agree that you have a right to life and while I’m not sure that one has a ‘right’ to death, I can assure you that nobody will be deprived of it. Throughout my post, I have used the term ‘right to be killed’ because this much more accurately reflects what euthanasia and assisted suicide actually involve. I think when put that way, however, the ridiculousness of the idea that this is a right is made evident. I also don’t think a prohibition on assisted suicide and euthanasia counts as an “oppressive restriction.” As Spencer said, “we have the medical ability to reduce and eliminate pain.” Lastly, my ideas of what remaining safe constitutes always entail me being alive.

    So, to answer your questions, Cara, yes, you have a right to autonomy. Yes, you have a right to save yourself from enduring pain that will strip you of your life. Yes, you have a right to state sanctioned help. However, none of that requires assisted suicide or euthanasia.

    Finally, I want to remark on how you depict dependency at the end of your article. Being confined to a bed unable to bathe and feed yourself or communicate with your family DOES NOT strip you of your dignity. We all start our lives exactly so. Dependency is not something that we should fear or be ashamed of. One CAN live (and not merely survive) while in pain and dependent. To say otherwise is to dismiss the experiences of many of those who live with chronic pain or have a disability. Their lives are valuable too and with the right support system, they can be just as fulfilled and happy as the rest of us. Even when many of our abilities are impaired, we always have the capacity to love and be loved.

    In my last attempt to sway how you think of assisted suicide and euthanasia, I would encourage you to think about how we treat youths with mental illness and depression. They might be in the same amount of pain as someone with an irremediable and grievous illness and they might feel just as hopeless. However, our reaction is radically different. We do our best to convince them that their lives are worth living and they are valuable too. Why should this response not be universal when it comes to people wanting to end their lives? If we see someone on the side of a bridge and stop to see if we could help, should we just walk away when they declare that they have a grievous and irremediable medical condition? Or should we do all that we can to make sure they enjoy and appreciate the rest of their lives, regardless of how much time they have left?

  2. I agree with Spencer in the respect that I am against the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to lift the prohibition on physician-assisted death and definitely think the Court is overstepping its power. However, while I blame this corruption of our democracy on activist (rather than neutral) judges, I think that the Charter is set up so that it easily facilitates such liberal interpretations. The rights and freedoms laid out in it are vague and imprecise, and indeed, it’s hard to imagine a way around this, which is why it’s much more preferable to have elected representatives VOTING upon important matters such as this one.

    For example, it’s easy to see how the “right to life” guaranteed in section 7 of the Charter can be cited in order to SUPPORT the ban on assisted suicide and euthanasia, as they take away someone’s life. Cara, you brought up pre-emptive suicide, but really anything from an increase in taxes to a decrease in social services can spur one’s suicide. The government has not violated a person’s right to life every time it puts a policy in place that people kill themselves over. I do, however, appreciate and share your concern about people taking their lives because they feel like they have no other option. That same concern, however, is present when assisted suicide and euthanasia is legalized.

    Imagine that someone has just received an ALS diagnosis. (I am using ALS as an example because it is often brought up in debates about assisted suicide and euthanasia.) They are in a very vulnerable mental state because many of their life plans have just been effectively destroyed. Because of legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia, there are fewer people with ALS who might be able to relate to what they are going through. They feel isolated and the very doctors whom they trust are telling them that they can consider just ending it all. In fact, in the regulations that have arisen after the Supreme Court ruling (because this is a hypothetical), people with ALS have been specifically included as those with a poor enough quality of life as to warrant assisted suicide or euthanasia. So, they start to wonder about how their life can be worthwhile when both revered medical staff and others with ALS think it’s better to be dead than to continue with the disease. This ALS patient sees how much of a burden is placed on their family and feels responsible for it. Because many potential buyers and test subjects are choosing to be killed, drug researchers have less of an incentive to work on a cure for ALS. This person with ALS decides to be killed, despite the fact that had assisted suicide and euthanasia been illegal, they would not have done so.

    If pre-emptive suicides are going to be used to appeal to the right to life, why not also use the above scenario?

  3. Thank you for your comments! :)

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