I like to think that I am an empathetic person; I often put myself in the shoes of others in order to gain a better understanding of their thoughts and feelings. On a few occasions, I have caught myself wondering how I would think and feel if I were to be suddenly diagnosed with a disease that would cause me to be in pain for the rest of my life.
Would I want to wait until I succumbed to my disease? Would I want to take my own life? Would I want someone to take my life for me? The decision is one that I would not take lightly because it, obviously, is a decision that I would not be able to take back.
There are some individuals, as The Global and Mail reports, who feel that the recently proposed assisted-death legislation is “playing it safe.” I, however, feel that the legislation is perfect considering the weight of the matter.
Yes, medical assistance in dying is to become legal in Canada as a result of the Supreme Court’s recognition that parts of the Criminal Code violate one’s right to life, liberty, and security. The federal government has until June 6 to officially respond to the Court’s decision by passing the proposed law.
There are right-to-die advocates who are unhappy with the legislation. From their perspective, its requirements are too strict, and would result in people suffering needlessly. One particularly stringent eligibility requirement is that one’s natural death is “reasonably foreseeable, taking into account all of their medical circumstances.”
In other words, the legislation does not explicitly cover individuals suffering from degenerative mental conditions, such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease. That said, those suffering from such conditions may still be found eligible for medically assisted death in that the legislation does not require that one suffer a fatal or terminal disease. An individual suffering from dementia may still be found eligible, taking in other factors such as their age or frailty.
The legislation that already exists in California, Oregon, and Quebec is very similar to that proposed by the Canadian government.
In a way, the proposed legislation, though strict, also allows for some flexibility. It is ultimately important for people to remember that each case of medical assistance in dying will be considered individually.
Making the legislation more flexible may cause problems in that the right to physician-assisted death may be abused. One of the primary reasons that assisted dying was previously prohibited was because it was meant to “protect vulnerable persons from being induced to die by suicide at a time of weakness.” If the eligibility requirements were less strict, I fear that there would be vulnerable individuals quick to exercise their right to die in lieu of seeking other medical help.
Moreover, there are a handful of other jurisdictions in the Western world that already have physician-assisted death legislation in place, such as California, Oregon, and the province of Quebec. The legislation that exists in these jurisdictions is very similar to that proposed by the Canadian government.
So, rather than starting from scratch, the government has decided to take the successful physician-assisted death legislation in these other jurisdictions as a foundation for its own. Thus, I would not say that the proposed laws are too cautious.
At the end of the day, I think that it is important that people put themselves in the positions of individuals who would be exercising their right to medical assistance in dying. The decision is an irreversible one that carries a lot of weight. The strict nature of the proposed legislation is to ensure that individuals are able to voluntarily make such a decision with complete certainty.