Euthanasia In Canada


There is considerable debate today, both among the public
and the politicians, about euthanasia. While the government is
hesitatant to venture into morals and ethics, it appears that
euthanasia is gaining more press coverage, in light of the Sue
Rodriguez and Robert Latimer cases. Indeed, the issue is
difficult to resolve, and despite few advances, the government
has enacted penalties in the Criminal Code to punish assisted
suicide. Without reservation, euthanasia is illegal in Canada. An
increasing number of people are turning to doctor-assisted
suicide. As a result of a more liberal political arena, more
people are agreeing that some form of euthanasia must be
acceptable in specific circumstances. Politicians, and the
courts, claim that the country is not yet ready for such a
climate. The characterization of pro-euthanasia advocates by
their counterparts as selfish, taking the easy way out,
diserespectful of life, and challenging human dignity is
misconstrued. Pro-euthanasia groups advocate self-dignity,
personal choice, economic well-being, happiness, family support,
and individual rights.
The word euthanasia simply means good death, but has come to
mean causing death with intent, whether by doing something
(commission), or by omitting something(omission). Euphemisms of
the pro-euthanasia movement, include "right to die", and "death
with dignity". The term "passive euthanasia" is often applied to
the withdrawal of useless treatment that is onlyprolonging the
dying of a person. This needs to be differentiated from
withdrawing of something that is actually keeping them alive, the
withdrawl of which actually causes their death. It has been
pointed out that the pro-life lobby will be split and discredited
if there is an insistence by some that all technological means
must be used whenever possible to prolong life. No ethical doctor
insists on the use of burdensome, ineffective of futile measure,
commonly called 'disproportionate', when refused by the patient
or family. Doctors must necessarily in all patients discontinue
curative or therapeutic efforts at the time when death is
imminent and inevitable. Patients may request all measures to be
attempted if they desire but it cannot be demanded that life
always be prolonged as much as possible, without fuelling the
"right to die" movement.
Allowing death to occur when the patient specifically
refuses further therapy is to acknowledge the natural limit of
autonomy. This does not extend to refusal of basic care and does
not mean the withdrawal of comfort measures. In 1991, the BC
Royal Commission concluded that "the person who is dying should
have the right to determine the form and time of death...There is
a right to commit suicide, and a physician should be allowed to
assist a person who chooses to exercise that right." The Right to
Die Society in Canada, based in Victoria,

"Affirms the right of any mature individual who is
chroniclally or terminally ill to choose the time, place, and
means of his or her death. Suicide and euthanasia are a
legitimate response to the declining quality of life which many
individuals experience as they growq older, or whicfh they
suffer as a result of accidents or congential disabilities."

This society actively lobbies politically for active euthanasia,
and provides counselling to every member who wishes to know about
assistance-in-dying. Similarly, the Canadian Medical Association
has run a series of articles on euthanasia. Eike Kluge, the
former CMA ethicist, is outspokenly pro-euthanasia. A recent
article published as a discussion article stated, "What a strange
world we live in, that we are kinder to our animals than we are
to human beings." His colleague, Ethics Committee Chairman, Dr.
Arthur Parsons, asked "Who is going to get into the lifeboat? Is
it better to keep a severely retarded person alive, or spend your
tight resources on bypass surgery for a father of four?" This
brings up two important issues, the first, that euthanasia is
still used for animals, despite being called "putting to sleep",
and secondly, the issue of money and the costliness of keeping a
person alive. Research shows that the most expensive term of care
for a patient is the final six months prior to their deaths. The
financial burden for a seemingly hopeless case is unbearable, not
just for the family, but for the patient as well. The patient, in
their last few days, should not have to worry about being a
financial burden, but the truth is, healthcare is expensive. As
Dr. Parsons argued, it may be better to supply those crucial
healthcare dollars to the father of four who requires surgery
because the chances of success are phenomenally better than the
comatose or terminally ill patient.
Current euthanasia advocates have erealized that active
euthanasia is too difficult to push through Parliament. They have
elected to go through assisted suicide which opens the door