Much of the debate surrounding Physician Assisted Death (PAD) was between those who believe in personal autonomy and the right to avoid unwanted suffering, and those who believe life is sacred and suffering is redemptive. Those same two groups are now trying to influence the creation of detailed legislation and regulations.
The decision recently handed down in Carter v. Canada has no doubt changed the face of doctor-assisted suicide in Canada. It raises many novel issues in the realm of estate planning that will need thoughtful consideration over the coming months and years. We will also have to wait and see what legislation, if any, arises in response to this landmark decision.
Last week's Supreme Court decision has put the issue of assisted suicide square onto the government agenda. However, it would be a real loss for Canadians if Parliament does not look at the much broader issue of how we care for Canadians suffering from incurable illnesses. Over the last year I have had the fortune to meet with front line providers of palliative care across Canada. The question that needs to be asked is how can the Federal government respond to the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling unless it also deals with this patchwork of end of life services in this country?
I was completely paralyzed -- I couldn't even scratch my nose or wiggle my toes. I just lay there, staring at the ceiling. But that was many years ago and I had the exuberance of youth -- I just knew I would recover to play football in the autumn. That was after I contracted Polio, some 60 years ago. I am still disabled and I never did play football, but I did recover enough muscle strength to lead a meaningful life with a good profession and a great family. Some 25 years later, my muscles started to weaken due the late effects of Polio. Some even disappeared. When assisted end-of-life becomes the law in Canada, your life can have a peaceful ending.
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?