The Wildrose and PCs Weigh In On Medically Assisted Dying

We’ve seen a lot of fireworks in the Alberta Legislature but nothing can match the rhetoric and misinformation that characterized the response of the Wildrose (and to a lesser extent the Progressive Conservatives) to the government’s motion to regulate medical assistance in dying.

Background

On Feb 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that refusing to provide medical assistance in dying violates a citizen’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

On Apr 14, 2016 the Trudeau government introduced Bill C – 14 to amend the Criminal Code by creating an exemption to the offence of culpable homicide where a competent adult suffering from a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes him/her enduring, intolerable suffering clearly consents to his/her death.

On May 31, 2016 the Alberta government introduced Motion 17 to give Cabinet the power to finalize regulations to provide medically assisted death to eligible Albertans under certain conditions.

And on June 6 medical assistance in dying (MAID) becomes a reality.

The debate

The government proposed Motion 17 to address this reality.

hi-bc-110802-euthanasia-picture

It sets out draft regulations that allow Albertans to access MAID, provides safeguards to protect vulnerable Albertans, protects the conscience rights of those who don’t want to participate and ensures accountability by creating a monitoring and regulatory process.

Wildrose MLA Ron Orr characterized the motion as “an earthquake motion”.  He said “the social terra firma of western society, which has been stable for centuries, all of a sudden, [and] without warning, gave a little bit of a rumble and today, without warning, split wide open.”*

Mr Orr’s comment is 18 months too late.  Medical assistance in dying has been in the works ever since the Supreme Court released its decision.

Mr Orr’s reaction was indicative of the Wildrose’s response—instead of debating the merits of the Motion the Wildrose galloped madly off in all directions.

Forget the law   

Unlike the Progressive Conservatives, many Wildrose MLAs refuse to concede that the issue of medically assisted dying was closed when the Supreme Court rendered its decision.

Grant Hunter said “To simply accept the Supreme Court’s decision as ubiquitous is perhaps the high-jurisprudence equivalent of the naturalistic fallacy that exists in philosophy.”  He argued that just because the Supreme Court “concluded that a right to suicide is, paradoxically, a part of the right to life should not mean we should accept legalized suicide as a new moral or a new normal.”**

Ms Soapbox has no idea what Mr Hunter is talking about but it sounds like he’s saying it’s okay to ignore the law.

The power of love

Mark Smith’s key argument was that euthanasia and physician-assisted death are the result of a lack of love.***

He suggested people seek physician-assisted death not to alleviate pain but out of fear—fear of   losing control, losing personal autonomy and becoming a burden to loved ones.

He said people will choose “natural death” (whatever that means) when their fear is allayed by proper palliative care, psychosocial counseling and the knowledge they are loved.

He concluded that “Love…not physician-assisted death, is the answer.”

Love as the basis of analysis of Motion 17?  Maybe you had to be there.    

Religious insight

Mr Strankman asked a rhetorical question:  “Who the H do we think we are to legislate life and death?”****

He said he’d heard from five people on the issue, noting that many of them were “churchgoing people.”  He asked:  “Does that provide special insight into it?  I don’t know.  They feel it does.  It gives them insight into what they believe is another sphere.”

Ms Soapbox does not have insight into another sphere and is not qualified to comment.

Slippery Slope

Moving from the ridiculous to the sublime, Mr Orr raised a frightening scenario.  If we allowed the NDP Cabinet to finalize these regulations what’s to stop a future cabinet from enacting regulations that allow the euthanization of a troubled teenager on the referral of his teacher without his family’s knowledge.*  

That’s so farfetched it doesn’t merit a response.

Lack of public consultation

A more legitimate complaint was that Opposition had not been given sufficient time to get input from their constituents.

However this was not an issue for the NDP MLAs.  Maria Fitzpatrick sought feedback from her constituents six months ago on the recommendations for assisted dying prepared by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA).

Greg Clark (AP) consulted with his constituents and stakeholders the weekend prior to the debate and decided to support the motion.  Dr David Swann (Lib) spoke eloquently in support of the motion as well.

Neither the Wildrose nor the PCs had a satisfactory response to the NDP’s point that it had consulted with 15,000 Albertans through an on-line survey, created an MLA Consultation Panel which met with stakeholder groups including Indigenous peoples, physicians and ethicists, and received 31 submissions from groups representing doctors, palliative care nurses, psychologists, social workers, lawyers, the Council of Imams, Catholic Bishops, faith-based healthcare providers and university faculties like medicine, nursing, and philosophy.

Lack of preparation

Some suggest that the government and the medical profession are unprepared.

Dr Trevor Theman, Registrar of the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) bristles at this allegation, noting that in 11 years as registrar he’s never seen such a high level of preparation and collaboration among Alberta Health, AHS, and the healthcare regulators for medicine, nursing and pharmacy.

A review of the CPSA recommendations in support of medically assisted death bear this out.

They complement Motion 17 and if the Opposition had bothered to review them they would have discovered that many of their concerns (eg providing a cooling off period and providing information on other treatment options like hospice care and pain control) have been addressed.

Bottom line:  The Alberta government did a good job of preparing Alberta for the reality of medically assisted death under less than ideal circumstances.

It ceded its debate time to the Opposition to allow for healthy debate.  The Wildrose squandered its time and the PCs rejected the government’s work but failed to offer an alternative.

As a result, the legitimate concerns of a few opposition MLAs were swamped by meaningless rhetoric and shameless grandstanding for the folks back home.

What a waste.

*Hansard, May 31, 2016, 1334, 1335

**Hansard, June 1, 2016, 1393

***Hansard, June 1, 2016, 1389

****Hansard, June 1, 2016, 1396

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31 Responses to The Wildrose and PCs Weigh In On Medically Assisted Dying

  1. david says:

    Like discussions of death itself, it appears many people (including some MLA’s; and the past PC government!) postponed discussions on Assisted Dying despite its imminence since the Supreme Court decision, hoping it wouldn’t happen!

    • David in your very thoughtful comments to the Legislature you said the previous PC government had seen this coming years ago and that you’d raised the issue with a couple of former Health Ministers who refused to touch it, not even after the Supreme Court rendered its decision 18 months ago. Consequently we find ourselves in this situation where the present government has to scramble to enact regulations upholding conscience rights and setting up safeguards to protect the vulnerable. And while they’re getting the job done the PCs criticize them for not taking the time to do it “right”. Ironic isn’t it, given that the PCs, who had all the time in the world to do it right, did nothing.

  2. jvandervlugt says:

    Hello Susan. Thank you for covering this emotionally charged issue. MAID is happening. Now. I found this link of a Calgary woman seeking MAID in BC and she received a legal exemption for doctor-assisted death to end her life in Vancouver with the help of two physicians.
    http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/calgary/doctor-assisted-dying-calgary-woman-m-v-1.3473052

    For Mark Smith to suggest what he’s suggesting is disrespectful and an insult to the late Ms. S., and anyone else who is suffering in the final stages from a terminal disease. Referring to the late Ms. S., she was the only one who could address how she wanted to live the last days of her life and everyone else needs to butt out.

    This is not an easy issue and our medical profession and governments have a lot of work to do with regards to our laws.

    • Joanna, Mark Smith became quite effusive when he extolled the virtues of love. He said: “Love, it is said, heals all wounds, and I can testify on that issue. Love finds the resources for palliative care. Love supports life. Love does not force the health system and physicians who up to now have preserved life to become physicians who administer death.” What I want to know is how he’d define a “natural death”. If you’re diagnosed with cancer is it “natural” to undergo radiation and chemotherapy or should you just let the disease take its course? If you have a heart attack is it “natural” to undergo triple bypass surgery or should we just let you die? What about people who insist that every medical intervention possible must be used to revive them if they become deathly ill? Is it “natural” to try to resuscitate a 90 year old woman if it means you have to break all her ribs to do it?

      As you said, these are complex medical/ethical/legal questions. The Supreme Court and the federal and provincial governments have set down the parameters of how MAID should be handled, but ultimately the decision to avail oneself of MAID rests with the individual and it bothers me greatly that someone like Mark Smith would suggest that the decision that is right for him is right for everyone else.

      • Missy says:

        The idea that “love heals all wounds” and “love supports life” is a truly bizarre concept, and not one I’ve seen supported while working in acute care. The link below is an account of one such death that despite all the love in the world, did not make the patients suffering, nor the suffering of the family, any less. The article is long, but incredibly important, as is all discussion around death. As a content note, there are graphic descriptions of wounds and associated procedures.

        http://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/a34905/matthew-teague-wife-cancer-essay/

        Death is a guarantee for every person alive today, but how and when we die has far less to do with love and far more to do with technology and services available. Some of us will die peacefully, but some of us will die suffering and that extent of suffering is what is up for debate. To have someone dictate the level of care of the dying, who has not seen the suffering that can occur during dying, is ridiculous.

        It’s also a bizarre concept that physicians are “forced” to administer death. Nobody is saying physicians must do this, they are welcome to refer the patient on to someone who has said they were willing to complete the necessary assessments, and should the patient qualify, be willing to prescribe and if the regulations require it, administer the medication. There are already doctors in all zones across Alberta who have stated they are willing to provide the service to patients when it became legal. If you are someone who chooses not to access the services of medically assisted dying, great this law does not apply to you, but to assume every other person feels the same is selfish and unconstitutional.

  3. jerrymacgp says:

    The main reason the Alberta government took so long to introduce these regulations, is that they were waiting for federal legislation to clarify the legal situation in the wake of the Carter decision. For example, Carter was silent on the role of non-physician members of the health care team, leaving nurses, pharmacists, social workers and psychologists, among others, in limbo, and potentially in jeopardy of criminal prosecution if they participated in MAID. The hope was that federal legislation would clear this up, but such legislation took far too long to be presented to Parliament.

    • You’re right Jerrymacgp. The Supreme Court of Canada considered ss 241(b) and 14 in the context of physician-assisted death. At para 69 the Court said: We note…that Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson’s interest in liberty may be engaged by the threat of criminal sanction for their role in Kay Carter’s death in Switzerland. However, this potential deprivation was not the focus of the arguments raised at trial, and neither Ms. Carter nor Mr. Johnson sought a personal remedy before this Court. Accordingly, we have confined ourselves to the rights of those who seek assistance in dying, rather than of those who might provide such assistance. The Alberta regulations refer to the College of Physicians and Surgeons Standard of Practice and “registered members” who in this case would be physicians. The CPSA Standards also state that the Carter decision only addresses the role of physicians, not other healthcare providers.

  4. ABCanuck says:

    I wouldn’t want any doctor who participates in medically-assisted suicide to be my physician.
    The public has a right to know which doctors participate in MAID or have expressed willingness to do so.
    There are people out there demanding that even otherwise healthy young people who are unhappy or depressed be allowed MAID.
    I can just see the private MAID clinics springing up offering a quick doctor approval and a 15-minute procedure for $499.

    • carlosbeca says:

      ABCanuck if your exaggeration would come true, it would probably be better than people having to kill themselves by cutting their own throats or stabbing themselves and suffer horrible deaths because they have no access to assisted suicide. Their dogs and cats have much better end of life when required.
      You are obviously a person that do not approve it and I fully respect that position but do not force it on those that do not have the same view. We can have a law that allows for both instead of just serving those that have against views. After all my death or of anyone else does not affect your life one iota.

    • ABCanuck, I’m sure doctors will tell their patients whether they participate in MAID if their patients ask them.
      With respect to your second point the College of Physicians & Surgeons Standards of Practice makes it clear that it’s up to the physician, not the patient, to determine whether the patient is suffering from a “grievous and irremediable” condition. The Standards require a physician to get a second medical opinion in all cases and if the physician believes the patient may be suffering from “a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired capacity” he must refer the patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist for assessment and maybe even treatment. The Standards say “while chronic depression or other mental illness may itself represent a grievous and irremediable condition, the additional assessment is necessary to ensure the illness itself does not impair the patient’s capacity to make an informed decision.” I’m reasonably confident that we won’t be seeing private MAID clinics springing up on the corner any time soon. Oddly enough the only MLA who suggested the possibility of private MAID services was Wildroser Mark Smith. I think he was trying to make the point that the SCC decision was vague.

      • Julie Ali says:

        Hi Susan,

        I am not as confident as you are about the safeguards in place based on what happened with my handicapped sister at the Grey Nuns Hospital (GNH) over the past five years

        . One doctor put a DNR (do not resuscitate) order on her file. This was contrary to her personal directive requirements for full resuscitation. Subsequent visits to the GNH resulted in further orders-do not intubate, no ICU. We protested. They got a psychiatrist to say she was competent even though her carbon dioxide levels kind of made this competency questionable and when we took her to the University Hospital the doctors there-based on her blood gas report said she was not competent to make a decision.

        It’s a mess in end of life decision making at least at the GNH. When my sister went to the UAH and the Royal Alex they weren’t eager to resuscitate either but they did.

        As well there were goals of care (GOC) changes from R1 (full resuscitation) to R3 (no ICU) when she was in the GNH after eviction from long term care facility. Why would her GOC designations change when they told us she was stable over a year?

        Based on these bizarre experiences which the doctors at the UAH refused to explain or change until an ethicist asked them why were they willing to deny ICU care to my sister when they don’t deny care for repeated overdoses by addicted folks? I mean if the resuscitation brings my sister to life so that she is now puttering about painting and LIVING-what justification did the GNH doctor have for imposing a death sentence on a patient with severe disabilities other than to save the system money?

        I do not believe there is sufficient oversight of these end of life decisions by doctors. We have asked Covenant Health for an explanation for each of these code orders and GOC designations over the last five years. That request along with the explanation for the change in status from long term care to SL4 is at the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta.

        In Alberta, when citizens buck the system they get the runaround, the jumping through the hoops and no remedy as in the case of Shauna McHarg. We pay for offices such as the Protection for Persons in Care Office and the Ombudsman Office–that do nothing for us and I have no confidence that this new legislation will protect severely handicapped people.

        After all if it was that easy to get a psychiatrist to declare a person in respiratory distress as having capacity–what does this mean for severely handicapped patients without family or advocates? In my mind, it means legal protection for doctors who issue DNR contrary to the wishes of the patient and family. Right now because the federal legislation is not compliant with the Supreme Court decision, we have a gray area that is being filled by lawyers. The AMA has lawyers for doctor to help them through the process just in case, there isn’t a smooth transition to this process. I’m of the opinion that there needs to be more oversight and possibly by external bodies -not the doctors themselves but by a team of independent ethicists for any DNR decision as well as the right to appeal. This might also be necessary for the death by doctor business.

        Life is precious. I don’t believe it should be made easy to get this option. Some groups should not be offered this choice–especially for the mentally ill , the handicapped and children. Recently I read of a person with autism who was allowed this termination choice. In my opinion, this is unethical and unacceptable. In the story “Ghost Boy” by Martin Pistorius–the young boy -who is unable to communicate–hears his mother begging him to die. Such situations will result in children without defences–being encouraged to choose this option.

        This isn’t a popular stance but I think it’s one that needs saying.

      • Julie, I fully understand your concerns. It sounds like the safeguards presently in place to manage your sister’s care are confusing and variable depending on where she is, the state of her health and who is treating her. I don’t know why this would be the case but the confusion and anxiety you’ve experienced must be horrendous. My heart goes out to you. There is nothing worse than being helpless when someone else is making decisions you don’t agree with about how to care for a loved one.

        Turning to the SCC decision for a minute. The Court was crystal clear that effective safeguards have to be put in place to ensure the vulnerable are not abused under this new legal regime. Your experience with the protocols governing your sister’s care demonstrate how difficult it can be to get these safeguards right.

  5. Kathleen Lowrey says:

    I’ve been very disappointed by media coverage of the advent of assisted dying in Canada. The op-eds have lined up as if they only two possible positions were (1) enlightened liberalism, freedom to choose, death with dignity and (2) conservative religious whack jobbery.

    There is actually an important third position, eloquently articulated by disability activists involved in organizations like Not Dead Yet, which discusses the ways that the legalization of assisted suicide can actually create a coercive framework for judging which kinds of lives are “worth living” and place inescapable pressure on people with disabilities to make the “dignified” choice.

    There are real empirical questions about the gendered outcomes of assisted dying legislation: people who have done a lot of caregiving in their lives but reach their frailest years without anyone on hand to care for them may “choose” assisted death as another form of caregiving (“I wouldn’t want to be a burden on anyone”): these will mostly be elderly women, just given longevity differentials.

    There have in fact been extremely disturbing and seemingly misogynist decisions around assisted dying where it is currently fully operational; see:

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/dec/02/court-grants-impulsive-self-centred-mother-permission-to-die

    or

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/sex-abuse-victim-in-her-20s-allowed-by-dutch-doctors-to-undergo-euthanasia-due-to-severe-ptsd-a7023666.html

    There are more voices that need to be fully heard than have been up to the present; coverage that suggests that everybody right-thinking has gotten with the program except for the silly old Wild Rose is totally wrong (sorry Susan! I like your blog a lot but this is a bugaboo of mine…)

    • Kathleen, you raise a very important point that I’ll address below, but first let’s talk about the two cases in the links. Both focus on the issue of competence.

      The first case concerns a woman found competent to refuse life-saving medical treatment, it’s not really a MAID case. The law is the same in Canada (the classic cases involve Jehovah’s Witnesses where the courts have held that competent adult JWs can refuse life-saving blood transfusions but underage JW children cannot). You have to wonder whether other doctors would have found the woman competent given that she was diagnosed with breast cancer, overdosed on alcohol and damaged her kidneys to the point where she required dialysis to survive but refused to treatment because she’d lost her “sparkle”.

      The second case is a MAID case. A woman in her 20s had been sexually abused from age 5 to 15. She suffered from PTSD, severe anorexia, chronic depression and hallucinations. After intense therapy the doctors said she was incurable. She wanted MAID and the doctors agreed saying that she had no major depression or mood disorder which affected her thinking. It’s hard to fathom how the doctors reached the conclusion that she was competent but it certainly sounds like she’d meet the SCC requirement of a “grievous and irremediable condition”.

      I agree with your point that the legalization of assisted suicide may create a mindset that some lives are not worth living or that the disabled should “do the right thing” and not burden others. My daughter tells me this mindset is seeping into popular culture with movies like Me Before You in which the handsome young disabled man and a pretty young girl fall in love but he gets MAID in Switzerland because he thinks that’s best for her. I hope the safeguards that require two medical opinions and a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist if the physician is concerned that a psychological or psychiatric disorder or depression is interfering with capacity are robust enough to guard against this mindset.

      We definitely need to hear more voices on this issue. And thank you for sharing your bugaboo with us 🙂

    • Julie Ali says:

      I agree with you that more voices should be heard-especially from the people who have no voice in our society-the mentally ill, the severely handicapped and the very old. We haven’t heard from them because they don’t typically take part in the “consultations” that the government of Alberta has regularly done for very little results.

      I believe –based on my sister’s experiences at the Grey Nuns Hospitals that severely handicapped citizens without family or advocates are at risk with the current end of life procedures in place and will be at more risk with this legislation.

      When the federal government has finally complied with the Supreme Court decision there will be protection for all the people involved in this new death by doctor business and that’s the real purpose of the C-14 legislation in my opinion. The standardized euthanasia process that will result from this legalizing of death by doctor–will ensure that doctors are protected. There will be the conversion of the already existing informal death by doctor process to an assembly line process.

      I mean death by doctor was always going on behind the scenes but there could have been legal repercussions. Even with the current state of affairs, with Alberta’s–medical assistance in dying (MAID) –in place the College is indicating to its physicians that lawyers are available to assist them with the business. Once everything is settled however, lawyers won’t be needed and folks can just go to the same doctor who may have treated them all through their lives and ask for death instead of health.

      Of course, people will say what’s wrong with this scenario? Well in my mind, doctors aren’t there to kill off people. Doctors don’t avoid death when it comes, but they should not do the termination. They may help families struggle with the dying process but they don’t end life. They don’t do what one doctor told me they were doing -they told me that they were being kind in terminating my handicapped sister. I don’t think it is kind at all. I think it’s something else–doing death for the purpose of bureaucratic expediency to save the system the cost of an ICU bed and resuscitation / health care costs.

      In my opinion–this death by doctor business– is not the work of a doctor. Maybe they could have designated death doctors for this purpose but I feel that the profession is losing something valuable going into this new field of work.

      • Kathleen Lowrey says:

        Julie — I think you make an important point about advocates. There are many people allying themselves to the cause of “dignified death” but allies of the elderly and the disabled are harder to find. Susan brought up the movie _Me Before You_: just the fact that in 2016 it got made and no one in the process thought it was anything but a beautiful love story and then they were gobsmacked to encounter protests shows how far we have to go on getting our alliances straight. The dominant attitudes toward disability and age are so incredibly hateful (the worst kind of hateful — that is sort of casually “oh, everyone agrees such a such a person would be better off dead and such and such a life is not worth living” — which doesn’t even consider itself anything but common sense) and the debate around this huge shift has been so limited and under-informed, it’s very upsetting.

  6. Carlos Beca says:

    Procedures aside it amazes me that we spend so much time on this basic of human rights. The Wildrose, the PCs and any other party usually soaked on religious beliefs can try to impose their views on everybody else but the fact is deciding whether I want to live or not for whatever reason is my decision alone. Those that are religious and believe that God is the only one that can make that decision, can subject themselves to that rule and leave the rest of us free of that meaningless rule. People are just so righteous about their religious beliefs that they can no longer understand a life where their decisions and not God’s are what matters in their lives.
    The problem is that people are brainwashed on this idea that those that commit suicide somehow go to hell and cannot move out of that position, just like the chickens that cannot move over a line if you draw it in front of them.
    As far as the procedures, there are lots of examples in the world already and it is just a question of taking a look at them and implement it with whatever changes people think required. Not sure why this takes so long either because those that want to take their lives do it with or without procedures.
    To me the whole subject is a monumental waste of time. The Wildrose of course always reacts as cousin Larry from Nipus.

    • Carlos you’re absolutely right when you say there are countless examples of jurisdictions that have implemented MAID successfully.

      The trial judge in the Carter case heard from scientists, medical practitioners, ethicists and others familiar with end-of-life decision-making in Canada and other jurisdictions. She concluded “that a permissive regime with properly designed and administered safeguards was capable of protecting vulnerable people from abuse and error.” The SCC reviewed the evidence the trial judge considered and how she applied the law to this evidence and agreed. Specifically the trial judge said there was no evidence to support the fear that vulnerable populations (the elderly and the disabled) would be forced into MAID or that MAID would negatively impact palliative care or put Canada on the slippery slope to euthanasia and condoned murder.

      One reason why the SCC was able to come to the decision it did was that it was reviewing the trial decision was based on evidence not beliefs. Which takes us back to your first point, namely that creating laws based on religious beliefs leads to nothing but heartache (for some of us at any rate).

      • carlosbeca says:

        Yes creating laws based on religious beliefs is very bad news, but the norm. I have suffered discrimination because I am not a religious person. Even today. especially in North America, It is not that open. I was astounded the other day, reading I believe the MacLean’s magazine that even in Canada, in a political race a gay politician wins hands down against an atheist.

    • Julie Ali says:

      Hi Carlos,

      I don’t believe that this is a basic human right.

      I think of this issue as a threat to my handicapped sister.

      Based on our experiences over the past five years where we had to beg for her life, I see this legalized death by doctor as simply a legal mechanism to ensure that doctors aren’t sued for doing the do not resuscitate order on handicapped people.

      In my sister’s case she was not competent but was declared able to make the decision to die. This was backed up by other Grey Nuns Hospital doctors.

      The only problem with the doctor decisions–to terminate my sister—was that my sister had family who yapped endlessly to three health ministers for five years about this atrocious end of life decision making process that ignored legal documents. I mean what is the use of having a personal directive asking for full resuscitation if doctors ignore it? Isn’t this sort of unilateral imposed death by doctor with the use of do not resuscitate (DNR) orders–rather odd? I think it is completely unacceptable and I am waiting for Covenant Health to explain all the various orders and goals of care changes I found in my sister’s medical files.

      I have no problems if competent folks want to die in this way. But I have real problems when doctors try to terminate patients who can’t defend themselves from these sorts of decisions. But again, caution must be exercised even with competent folks.
      If people have full capacity there are also vulnerable times in a life where you may decide to go this route and this in my mind-is also wrong. It’s too easy to do this dying business and you can’t come back can you?

      Why can’t we have decent palliative care with pain relief that works? And then, if there is reasoned decision making by the patient, with full review by a group of experts-not just doctors who will just support each other-but other folks like ethicists-then I will accept such decisions -as one other person has said it –as exceptions rather than common practice.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Julie I would not expect you to agree with me, most people do not.
        I am not sure I made myself clear enough so I repeat it here so that there is no doubts about my position.

        The right of a person to decide whether or not to take his/her life for whatever reason is to me a basic human right and resides solely with the person. I do not believe that the Church, the Supreme Court or Parliament have the right to override that decision.

        Now in the case of your sister I am surprised you do not agree with me because you are actually saying that the decision she made is not being respected and that is my point. Except that in your sister’s case it involves other issues I do not want to make a comment about because I think I would hurt your feelings and I am not interested in that kind of discussion by text messages. Much can be misinterpreted.

  7. I am a religious person, but I do not presume that I should have the right to control how another person should live or die. There are sufficient guidelines in place to ensure that the person is making the right decision for him or herself. We should leave them be. My son and I happened to be talking about this news the other day and he said if I ever interfered with his right to decide he would hate me forever. Simply put. That is ultimately his decision. That is love, not the nonsense that the politicians are spouting.

    • Julie Ali says:

      Hi Linda, There may be sufficient guidelines but in our experience doctors aren’t following the guidelines as my handicapped sister’s case amply illustrates.

    • Linda, thanks for passing along your son’s views. My daughter the nurse is of the same opinion. She has seen many many people die of “natural causes”, rarely is the experience the quiet peaceful death we so often see on TV. I support the right of any competent adult to make this decision.

  8. GoinFawr says:

    Kevin Smith’s film “Dogma” had an interesting take on this question> A skee ball loving God was trapped in a homeless man’s comatose body by minions of the demon Azrael, so the only way to save the universe was for the ‘last Zion’ to take the homeless man off life support, because once the body died God would instantly return to heaven and consciousness.

    Personally, I can imagine many circumstances in which I would likely feel it to be better off to be dead:

    Seriously though, the human body can become it’s own torture chamber, it hardly seems righteous to expect someone else to endure such a fate.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Yes the body can become it’s own torture chamber and the mind it’s own hell.
      The problem is that religion decided to make suicide a sacrilege and so we now have to deal with it. I believe this happened because in the ancient world rulers did not want their slaves to end their lives so that they could continue serving them. They created this myth to keep them alive and willing to put up with their horrible lives. 🙂

      • GoinFawr says:

        Speaking of what world rulers want for the ‘precariat’ (wage slaves), no less a personage than Canada’s minister of finance, Bill Morneau, will be attending the Bilderberg meeting this year in Dresden.

        As usual public money is funding this trip to a private meeting, so I suggest an intense social media campaign demanding he disclose the details of what is discussed regarding taxpayers’ interests.

        Judging by the consecutive, no-end-in-sight budgetary deficits the Liberal gov’t is running, I’ve got money on my flank Canada’s finance minister will receive an ultimatum similar to the one Bilderbergers likely put to Paul Martin in the 90’s: IE. ‘Cut crucial social programs and privatize any profitable public assets left for pennies on the dollar or we your creditors will raise interest rates so high your revenue won’t even cover the interest on the debt anymore.’
        (FWIW: currently, at these all time low rates, that interest is around 165 Million CAD/DAY, or ~2large/Every.Single.Canadian, man, woman or child, working or not, per year)

        That is the standard Economic Hitman MO of course, but because it’s a private meeting that not one attendee has been brave enough to talk about to the public, I will never collect on such a wager anyway.

        “Sonny Ways” (copyright GoinFawr 2016) indeed.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        GoinFawr – well that visit is what the Liberals and the other parties call an economic meeting of the best minds on the planet. Bill Morneau is just making sure that after the 4 years as finance minister he has enough friends around the world elites to give him more than he already has. They love the Jet Set the all fake conversations on how to control the poor so that they do not cause them any headaches. Like you say, it is especially a meeting on how to get public assets for nothing. They already own Greece and got most of their public assets for pennies because of course everything was bad government assets.
        Bill will use the same excuse as our ex premier here in Alberta the famous Lady Redford that said that it is important to meet the financial gurus of the planet. She is a guru herself on the art of using public money without anyone noticing.

    • GoinFawr, the issue for me boils down to this: who should have the right to make her own end-of-life decisions, me or the parliamentarians who enacted a criminal law decades ago.

      • Julie Ali says:

        Hi Susan,

        I know that everyone should have the right to die. It seems like the fair thing to do. But I feel very uncomfortable with the idea of death being extended at any time in the future to minors or to handicapped citizens such as the individual with autism who was allowed to die.

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/where-the-prescription-for-autism-can-be-death/2016/02/24/8a00ec4c-d980-11e5-81ae-7491b9b9e7df_story.html
        Where the prescription for autism can be death

        In early childhood, the Dutch psychiatric patient known as 2014-77 suffered neglect and abuse. When he was about 10, doctors diagnosed him with autism. For approximately two decades thereafter, he was in and out of treatment and made repeated suicide attempts.

        He suffered terribly, doctors later observed, from his inability to form relationships: “He responded to matters in a spontaneous and intense, sometimes even extreme, way. This led to problems.”

        A few years ago, 2014-77 asked a psychiatrist to end his life. In the Netherlands, doctors may perform euthanasia — not only for terminal physical illness but also upon the “voluntary and well-considered” request of those suffering “unbearably” from incurable mental conditions.

        The doctor declined, citing his belief that the case was treatable, as well as his own moral qualms. But he did transmit the request to colleagues, as Dutch norms require. They treated 2014-77 for one more year, determined his case was, indeed, hopeless and, in due course, administered a fatal dose of drugs.
        **********************************************************************
        Parents of such special needs children struggle so hard to get them to adulthood and many of such children do not experience full inclusion in our society. When they struggle with anxiety and other mental health concerns as a consequence of first the neurodevelopmental disorder –they may feel bad enough about themselves to seek such a solution as death by doctor. I believe what these folks really need is competent psychiatric and psychological support through the health care system.

        These special needs children, youth and adults cannot help the way their brains are and struggle throughout their lives to be accepted as first class citizens. They –like the second class citizens in continuing care are stigmatized as “less” and a cost to the system. If you are told you are less and that you cost the system more I’m sure this doesn’t help with self image, or with establishing a strong enough identity to be strong enough when bad things happen, as they happen to all of us.

        These special needs citizens are a very vulnerable group and as my handicapped sister’s case has illustrated, death by doctor –informal and behind the scenes happens with the assistance of a psychiatrist willing to say the person is competent when it just ain’t so. If you don’t have determined advocates, you are toast.

        You can have all the safeguards in place for the death by doctor legislation– but if doctors do not live up to the ethical requirements of their professions there will be such cases of termination for bureaucratic expediency reasons. I believe Covenant Health needs to review its end of life procedures with the Goals of Care Designations especially where it pertains to seniors, handicapped citizens and those with special needs. Although Sarah Hoffman has written a letter to both the CEO of AHS and Covenant Health about our family’s concerns I have yet to see any sort of revamping of the end of life protocols with reference to safeguards, oversight, and challenges to the doctor decided deaths. If there is no sort of changes to the current system with the informal death by doctor business I think that what happened to my sister may happen with the formal death by doctor business. Maybe this is the way society views the severely handicapped citizen–as better off dead.

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