Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To kill or not to kill?

George Webster, a clinical ethicist, Health Care Ethics Service, at St. Boniface General Hospital and CIHR member, wrote an article that was published in the Winnipeg Free Press on March 22, 2010.

Webster begins his article by making reference to the program - The Suicide Tourist that was recently aired on PBS. He then comments on Bill C-384, the bill that would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

Webster continues by explaining why some people support the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide and then he explains why others oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Webster looks at the issue in a fair and balanced manner. He is concerned about what is best for the country, for physicians and for patient care. Webster makes this conclusion:
What to do? I believe we can "care well" for the dying and terminally ill in our society without intentionally bringing about their deaths or assisting in their suicides. Often, those who gravitate toward euthanasia or assisted suicide do so because they fear they will lose control of decisions at the end of their lives. They may have witnessed family members dying with little control over decisions or they may have witnessed loved ones die in great pain.

Via their words and actions, health-care professionals and health-care organizations must assure patients and families they will be involved in a meaningful way with decisions about their care. Patients must be assured they will not be abandoned, left to die in isolation and/or excluded from important choices at the end of life.

In our time, no one need die in this way. Fear of loss of control and fear of a painful, protracted dying process are basic issues for all in this debate. However, all too often in the discussion of assisted suicide the public is presented with two scenarios -- a death characterized by loss of control and unrelieved pain and suffering or a peaceful, calm death. This is, quite simply, a crude and simplistic caricature.

Assisting the suicide of those in our community who are dying and/or others who may be struggling with mental anguish eliminates tragedy and suffering by eliminating the sufferer. Rather than being an expression of mercy or respect, communal endorsement of euthanasia and assisted suicide is the ultimate abandonment of the person.

Palliative care is a viable alternative to euthanasia and assisted suicide. The philosophy of palliative care encourages each patient to live to the fullest as they confront their own unique dying. Palliative care demonstrates death is a communal event and not simply a private matter. Those working in palliative care bring specialized skills to respond to pain, psychological distress and the spiritual needs of patients and their families.

If we are to truly honour and respect those among us who are dying, or those whose hold on life is weakened by disease or suffering, then we must keep company with these people and respond in concrete ways that communicate faithfulness and attentiveness.

Link to the article at:

No comments: