April 22, 2024


You sit beside a hospital bed. Your outstretched hand is in the death-grip of a woman writhing in agony on the bed. Tears stream down her face as she begs for more morphine, or anything that will make the pain subside, if only briefly. You try to wait it out, knowing exactly what the doctor will say – no amount of drugs will help, only death can relieve her. Now imagine this woman is your mother.

Quebec recently rekindled the controversial issue of voluntary euthanasia after a report was released suggesting the government make it legal for doctors to help terminally ill patients end their life if the patient wishes. The report rejected assisted suicide, which is performed by a family member, in favour of “medical aid to die.”

The stipulations surrounding voluntary euthanasia would include an explicit, written request from adult patients suffering from an incurable disease causing unbearable physical and psychological pain. Two physicians would be required to evaluate the request.

According to a March 22 article in the National Post, a recent poll showed 70 per cent of Quebecers and a majority of the province’s doctors support the decriminalization of euthanasia.

The opposition claims that euthanasia, though voluntary, is still murder. Murder is defined by the Canadian Oxford Dictionary as the “unlawful killing of a person, performed with malice or forethought..” Euthanasia would certainly be premeditated, but by the patient and with the intent to bring an end to his or her suffering.

Suppose your dog or cat is sick. The vet has found several cancerous tumors on his body and every breath makes him shudder in agony. You know death can’t be far off, but you want to do the humane thing and end his suffering, so you ask your vet to euthanize him. Pets frequently receive this type of consideration while humans do not – terminally ill patients will have limbs amputated, be pumped full of drugs and be left to exist in a vegetative state simply because pulling the plug is illegal.

In Canada palliative care has its limits. For terminally ill patients, there comes a time when no amount of effort to preserve their life will increase their life’s diminishing quality. It is then that efforts must be directed toward maintaining their dignity.

Unfortunately, for now, “do not resuscitate” orders are the closest terminally ill Canadians can get to controlling their medical means, though hopefully not for long.

The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.