Let me be clear, we want thoughtfully legislated access to assisted dying -- not a free for all. We have established a Physicians Advisory Council to ensure we have input from physicians across the country. We want to work with doctors and medical associations to support legislation that provides choices and safeguards for both patients and doctors.
As polarizing as the debate seems to be, I've never had any qualms publicly declaring that I strongly support assisted suicide. To be frank, I have trouble understanding those who don't. Numerous drunk drivers who killed behind the wheel have received such lenient sentences they amounted to no more than a slap on the wrist. But if I assisted a loved one who was dying a slow and painful death, out of compassion and a desire to end their suffering, I would be subject to the same or even worse penalties as someone who indiscriminately and unconsciously mowed down an innocent pedestrian while driving drunk. Why?
The late Godelieva De Troye, 64, of Belgium, sought euthanasia because of a breakdown from a breakup. Lucky for her, she finally found a psychiatrist who agreed with her that her depression was incurable. And off she went with her "permission to die" note. For those who say this will not happen in Canada, I say prove it.
In Canada, attending a suicide is legal; assisting a suicide is not. Suicide itself is legal in Canada, thus preventing the further injustice of charges against the many unassisted suicides that result in survival in some kind of reduced quality of life. We must legalize assisted suicide in Canada. There are two ways this can happen.
It is a sad truth that a terminally ill person's death is already imminent. The question we therefore have to ask ourselves is whether that imminent death should be replete with pain and suffering in order to maintain a belief-system which relies on thinking doctors and nurses cannot be trusted, or whether that death should be pain-free when the individual is competent to decide that a life of continued suffering robs life of its personal meaning.
We are greatly encouraged by the CMA's recent poll of physicians that found should euthanasia be legalized, 26 per cent would be willing to actively participate. A further 20% were undecided. This is a stunning number. Once assisted dying is legalized, medical professionals and the public see for themselves the positive changes that result. Palliative care improves. Doctors become better at caring for individuals at end of life. Conversations between doctors and patients about desired end-of-life care take place.
The art of euphemism -- of sugar coating your verbal meaning -- has been raised to a syrupy peak by the proponents of euthanasia. When killing and suicide can be rebranded in the hearts and minds of average Canadians, the death lobby wins. What is truly being promised is the medical equivalent of a silent bullet in the head. The irony is that we don't need it. Symptom control at the end of life has never been better, and the right thing to do is to deliver it when needed. Common sense should tell us that we and our loved ones will not be safer or more empowered when the right to kill is given to doctors and nurses.
Today, science is making it possible to remove "genetic errors" by changing the DNA in the ovum. I am left asking what constitutes a genetic error. Missing a limb? Cleft palate? Down syndrome? Autism? And who will be the arbiter of these decisions as we learn more about our genes and heredity? Do YOU want to be God? The point is who decides who is perfect, normal, and genetically acceptable? And when? In utero, at birth, later in life when an "imperfection" shows up? Perhaps in later years when one becomes a burden to family or society? Quality-of-life and utilitarian ethics (greatest good for the greatest number) could make for dangerous bedfellows.
There is a marked difference between making it possible to take one's own life and actively participating in it. Because we abhor suicide we have all kinds of programmes established to reach out to those who wish to take their own life. There is a cognitive dissonance at play when we now ask our own government, through legislation, to participate in ending life. And then to label it "health care" is Orwellian.