To the editor;
The passage of Bill C-14 on physician-assisted suicide‚ now called “medical-aid-in-dying” (MAID), is a cause of profound disappointment.
It shows a pusillanimous attempt by our government to try to assuage the fears of that minority of Canadians who, for one reason or another, oppose the very idea of suicide.
Bill C-14 limits MAID to a very select group — those whose death is “reasonably foreseeable.” It denies MAID to those who who want it and need it.
I am reminded of a friend who suffered from ALS ( Lou Gehrig Disease). When her physical suffering became unbearable to her, she wanted to end her life. It was a well-thought out and perfectly sensible decision with which her supportive family agreed. She could have lived for a few more months or perhaps a year or two. Nobody could help — neither doctors nor her family. She tried suicide on her own by taking overdose of a prescribed medication, which in itself was difficult because of her disabled fingers. But the attempt was unsuccessful and only resulted in hospital admission. She was back in her home.
She finally decided to go to Switzerland to die. Fortunately, she could afford the expense. Her family went and helped her. Going to Switzerland is not just buying a one-way ticket. If you are not a Swiss resident, there are some logistical problems to deal with.
Tragically, Bill C-14 would not have helped her.
The history of MAID is long and painful. We have all heard of Sue Rodriguez and the American pathologist, Jack Kevorkian. It was, however, Kay Carter’s story that took the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada, which overturned the slim 1993 Supreme Court decision and unanimously supported “the right to control the method, timing and circumstances of death.” It asked the federal government to come up with a new law.
The Supreme Court’s decision was not supported by the Stephen Harper Conservative government, which began foot-dragging, but we had hopes with the Liberals.
Unfortunately, the Liberals have disappointed us by not only the “reasonably foreseeable” clause, but by excluding mental-health disease as a criterion. Also, advanced directives will not be accepted. Minors will be excluded, too, though increasing number of European countries are allowing minors with debilitating and fatal diseases to ask for MAID, and this has not resulted in “mass murder” of minors.
I expect it will be years before a new Supreme Court decision will make government pass a more humane bill.
Max Zahir, MD