Dignity

One advantage of listening to the radio all day long is that I’m pretty much the best informed I’ve been in my life.

Last week, you may have missed this very important judgement from the BC Supreme Court.

And more recently, the woman who won this judgement spoke out to the public.

Smith [the judge] ruled that because suicide is not illegal, banning assisted suicide discriminates against the disabled and is therefore unconstitutional.

It’s high time that we have a discussion about the dignity of death in this country.

As the daughter of a father who committed suicide, I feel strongly about this notion of being able to have the choice to end your life as you see fit. In the case of an able-bodied person, it’s not that difficult. You hang yourself, like my father did, or you poison yourself, or find another way. There are many ways to do so, some messier than others, but still most people can do it themselves.

I cannot imagine what it is to have a life-threatening disability, and I don’t pretend to be able to put myself in their skin. But as Canadian citizen with a modicum of empathy, I can see why the ban on physician-assisted suicide is unfair.

Controversial and delicate

Dignity

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I will say right away that I understand the difficulties that such a judgement can bring. What kind of checks and balances will there be? How do we make sure that nobody, doctor or family member, abuses this? What does religion have to say about this, if its opinion matters (I would rather religion stay out of it, honestly)?

The thing that makes me happy for Gloria Taylor and, hopefully, all the Canadians who will eventually have the right to ask for a physician-assisted death (she wants us to stop using “assisted suicide”, and I agree with her), stems from the basis of our democratic society: freedom of choice.

At least in Canada, people are free to do with their body as they choose. Women can choose to end pregnancies, everyone can choose to end their lives. Suicide is not illegal, but what do you do with someone who wants to die, but is not physically able to do so? Are they condemned to suffering just because they suffer from a disability?

Why extend the life of someone who has a fatal disease and who is suffering immensely? What good is there in prolonging suffering in loved ones, in fellow human beings? Which causes more harm, letting someone who wants to die live on in pain, or help them die on their own terms?

We euthanize our pets because we don’t want them to suffer needlessly when they are sick or hurt. Some people may feel like it’s a moot point; why compare human to pets? But ask yourself: if we consider that prolonging suffering in animals is inhumane, then why do we still let it happen to humans?

The travesty is being kept alive without dignity  –Gloria Taylor

“Wrong reasons”

As I listen to Ms Taylor talk on the radio about the argument that some people might choose assisted death for the “wrong reasons”, I can’t but agree with her argument that there are no wrong reasons. The reasons are the patient’s alone, nobody else’s. The reasons may seem “wrong” to observers, but why do they matter? Throughout our lives, and especially at the end of it, the only person we are accountable for is ourself.

I may miss my father, every day, but my desire to see him alive doesn’t trump his desire to die. It was his choice, not mine. He was suffering–maybe not physically, but mentally, and I’ve always accepted his death as a way to ease this suffering in a way that no medication could ever have. I choose to be merciful and accept his choice.

There is no “wrong reason” to choose to die when you have a fatal illness. There are only personal reasons.

Although no one can really know what they would do until it happens to them, we can show compassion, and, I believe,trust, in our fellow humans’ decision to wish to end their life on their own terms.

I hope that my fellow Canadians will show compassion and support this judgement if it ever goes into appeal. If you were to be sick and disabled, wouldn’t you like to choose the time and the manner of your death?

Wouldn’t you want to retain your human dignity, in death as much as in life? What’s your take on phyician-assisted death?

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1 Comment

Filed under Life, Personal, Thoughts

One response to “Dignity

  1. The point is to end pain. If death is the only way that can be accomplished, a physician is almost obligated, in my view, to help that happen in a painless manner.

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