Physician assisted suicide has been an ongoing debate since the early years however, it recently sparked more attention in 2009 when Gloria Taylor, an ALS patient, decided to challenge the Canadian courts’ prohibition. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a disease affecting motor neurons of the spinal cord, which causes progressive weakness and atrophy of muscles. She was soon joined by Dr. Shoichet, Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson both of whom were fighting for Kay Carter, a woman with spinal stenosis causing her endless suffrage. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that section 14 and 241(b) of the Criminal Code – prohibiting consented life termination, infringes section 7 of the Charter – the right to life, liberty and security and the right to not be deprived of. The topic of euthanasia has a lot of controversy surrounding it as there is a lot of things that may go wrong however, there are certain restrictions and guidelines placed to ensure things run smoothly throughout this process. In June 2016, Canada officially legalized euthanasia with reasonable and eligible conditions for example, the individual must be at least 18 years old, mentally competent and have a voluntary request. Although, it has only been legalized for two years, there have been a lot of controversial opinions surrounding the legalization of euthanasia. Nonetheless euthanasia should remain legal in Canada because of various reasons but most importantly, the quality of life, medical resources and the lawmaker’s perspective. The quality of life especially near the end of an individual’s life is very low and should be up to the patient to decide how long they want to continue going through the painful symptoms. Moreover, there are so many medical resources available when it comes to curing a disease however there is still major debate about using the resources to end a terminally ill patient life who merely holding on by a thread peacefully. Alternatively, give patients the right to euthanasia with very strict requirements without violating any rights or freedoms under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Charter fights for and guarantees rights for all Canadians to have the maximum freedom in living their life as pleased. Physician assisted suicide helps those who are constantly suffering through intolerable pain however, many people argue that if physician assisted suicide was an option to sufferers, they may be more lenient to choose this option without putting up a fight, misusing their power. However, the right to die should be a matter of personal choice and based off of how sever the illness is affecting the individual. For example, individuals make decisions everyday based off of clothing choices or career paths and should be able to have a say in ending their life with the assistance of a doctor. Moreover, it should be the individual’s choice based off of how long they want to go through the painful symptoms of the disease and most would prefer to die painlessly rather than painfully. Individuals who are suffering from terminal illnesses are often in an endless amount of pain which can be extremely excruciating for the patient and the only option for the patients who are suffering from said illnesses is to repeatedly take painkillers to help numb the pain in the tiniest way possible. In fact, the quality of life especially near the end of an individual’s life is very low. In addition, euthanasia gives both the individuals and the individual’s families the choice to stop the suffering peacefully. Michael Irwin, MPH, MD, a Coordinator of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS) said: “I’m pro-life – I want to live as long as I possibly can, but l also believe that the law should be changed to let anyone with some severe medical condition which is causing unbearable symptoms to have an assisted suicide. I wouldn’t want to be unnecessarily kept alive against my own will”. Indeed, many people often don’t want to be kept alive when dealing with an endless cycle of pain as they pray to be taken away every day to stop their suffering. For example, the case Rodriguez v. British Columbia is one of the main precedent cases that was looked upon and played a role in the legalization of euthanasia today. In this case the Supreme Court listened to a woman by the name Sue Rodriguez who wanted to end her life through the help of a physician because she was immobile. She argued section 7 (the right to life, liberty and security) was violated as it prevented her from living her life peacefully and to the fullest extent, section 12 (cruel and unusual treatment) was violated as it was considered cruel to let her suffer from a disease that is slowly killing her when there is another option and section 15 (equality rights) of the Charter. The ruling however did not favor Sue as the courts found that the physician assisted suicide prohibition did not violate section 7 of the Charter, however it did violate section 15 – equality rights. In addition, the judges ruled that this violation is justified through section 1 – reasonable limits with a vote of five to four. Sue ended up passing two years after challenging the idea of assisted suicide. For this reason, although Sue Rodriguez was denied her right to assisted suicide, she definitely played a main role in legalizing euthanasia today. Furthermore, many patients who are suffering from a terminal illness are unable to get the help or treatment they need and must involuntarily endure extreme pain and suffering which is unfair to the patient. In short, euthanasia should remain legal in Canada because if patients can terminate their lives with a single signature on one consent form, it is upsetting however it comes down to one’s personal opinion. It is easy to be ignorant and not see the pain one is enduring, which is also why the judges ruled in favor of physician assisted suicide.
“Your right to control your own life . . . is yours your entire adult life, up to and including the time and manner of your death” (Andrew Lewis).
That being said, physician-assisted suicide does damage to patients by breaking the trust between physician and patient, which should be based on healing, not based on killing. However, euthanasia has a lot of controversy surrounding it as there is a fine line between the right and ‘wrong’ approach to death according to society. The ‘right’ approach to death would be to allow the human body to take its natural toll to life, whereas the ‘wrong’ approach would be to put the patient to rest due to the unbearable pain they are experiencing using medical resources with their consent. That being said, there are so many resources available when it comes to curing a disease but why can they not use the resources to end a terminally ill patient life who merely holding on by a thread peacefully. Statistics have shown that as many as 97 beds at Toronto’s brand-new Humber River Hospital in what the administration calls ‘unconventional spaces’ as well as “Acute-care occupancy rates above 100 per cent in every month from January to May at both Brampton Civic and Etobicoke General hospitals”. In all honesty, many individuals argue that hospitals have a big problem with overcrowding and need to work on seeing and treating more patients at a time. Not to mention, giving terminally ill patients the option to peaceful pass away to end their suffering in a timely manner, could ease this burden that the hospitals are facing as well as the patients loved ones. Canada is one of the only countries that grant citizens free health care however, often times many patients travel from Canada to America to seek treatment to reduce the pain of euthanasia symptoms where supplies that are very costly. To tell the truth, when a person chooses the right to die, it ends all of these costs that their family has to suffer. It also allows the family to spend the last few moments of with their loved one happily rather than, living with a suffering loved one whom you know is always in constant pain. There have been several cases in the past where the patient suffering from a terminally illness have committed suicide in very painful yet fast ways to stop the unbearable pain, for instance: “I wrote an editorial favoring it, and told the story of my father, who shot himself rather than endure a protracted death from metastatic cancer of the prostate” (Marcia Angell, MD Senior Lecturer in Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School). Euthanasia can be extremely straining on individuals when it comes to the painful symptoms, they must go through which feels unbearable to them and the only option patients turn to when assisted suicide is not available is unassisted suicide. This cannot only cause pain for the patient as they are passing away in a very forceful manner by either putting a bullet through their head or overdosing but their loved arounds the patients. With regards to, Marcia Angell, MD Senior Lecturer in Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School told her story about her father whom shot himself instead of dealing with his terminal illness and spending time with his family while enduring painful symptoms. That being said, the doctor’s duty is to help patients and avoid suffering however, when the doctor’s duty is not only healing it should shift to relieving the suffering of patients. With that in mind, continuing to keep euthanasia legal will not only allow patients to rest in peace but also give their friends and family a sense of peace that their loved one was no longer in pain when they were let go with the help of a physician.
Finally, the ideological process makes no sense to allow a terminally ill patient as well as their loved ones to suffer when there is another option available that they would very much appreciate. Many argue, societies that authorize suicide as a ‘choice’ soon end up placing pressure on others who may be going through similar terminal illnesses to ‘do the right thing’ and kill themselves. In the 1993 Rodriguez case the Supreme Court listened to a case where a woman by the name Sue Rodriguez wanted to end her life through a physician because she was immobile. The ruling however did not favor Sue as the courts found that the physician assisted suicide prohibition did not violate section 7 of the Charter, however it did violate section 15 – equality rights. In addition, the judges ruled that this violation is justified through section 1 – reasonable limits with a vote of five to four. Though the decision did not work in favor towards her, this was the precedent case for other cases of euthanasia that followed and is one of the main reasons why euthanasia is legalized today. Moreover, to be eligible for medical assistance in dying, there are certain requirements an individual must meet for example, the patient must be at least 18 years old, mentally competent, have a terminal illness, make a voluntary request for medical assistance in dying and give oral consent. With that said, Canada is very secure when it comes to the requirements patients need in order to have the act of euthanasia performed on them, as Canada has taken longer to legalize euthanasia than other countries. A survey conducted in the Netherlands from 1992- 1997, the researchers found that family and friends of patients who requested medical assistance in dying had less traumatic grief symptoms, fewer current feelings of grief, and fewer post-traumatic stress symptoms compared to the family and friends of women who died naturally. Likewise, often times the argument made is the devaluation of life physician assisted suicide created. The basis of this argument was more religious than rational. God created people to live a long life and to pass when their time came, not to cut it short whenever they please. Each life should be respected and not taken for granted. If patients can terminate their lives with a single signature on one consent form, it is upsetting however it comes down to one’s personal opinion. It is easy to be ignorant and not see the pain one is enduring, which is also why the judges ruled in favor of physician assisted suicide. We should be allowing people to act on their own autonomy rather than attempting to preserve lives. Many of the reasons why euthanasia was not legalized sooner was because a lot of the individual who were fighting again euthanasia at the time believed that it was not religiously okay and that nature should take its path when it comes to death.
Euthanasia is the painless killing of a patient suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable disease that includes unbearable symptoms that the patient has to go through. The recent legalization of euthanasia in 2016 has sparked controversy almost everywhere as people are for it and against it. Nevertheless, despite the negative connotations, euthanasia has very specific requirements an individual must possess in order for the physician to go through with it. Euthanasia does not only relieve the patient’s suffering but the quality of life near the end of their journey, reduce the ‘overcrowding’ manner at hospital where terminal ill patients anxiously overdose on painkillers to minizine their pain in the tiniest way possible and give patients another option to death without violating any of the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ultimately, this issue of euthanasia reveals that society as a whole should keep euthanasia legal as it solves more than one problem and it is a win-win situation for all as it includes very strict requirements as well. In other words, instead of being quick to deny the idea of euthanasia, society must realize the unfortunate pain, individuals have to go through if euthanasia was not legalized as the patient’s loved ones experience less post death symptoms.