Friday, September 10, 2010

Questioning euthanasia

Brian Lilley who writes for the parliamentary bureau for the Sun Media was published today with this article in which he questions euthanasia. Lilley points out that euthanasia is not about pulling the plug, but rather legalizing euthanasia would give physicians the right to cause your death, usually by lethal injection. Lilley also points out that the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care has been established to research and make suggestion to parliament on how Canadians can be given better care and hopefully reverse the demand for euthanasia.

Questioning Euthanasia

By Brian Lilley - September 10, 2010

Do we want to give the government and government-run hospitals the power to kill us?

That’s really what is at the heart of the debate and special commission on euthanasia taking place in Quebec.

Everyone has an opinion on euthanasia and assisted suicide but are we all really talking about the same thing?

Put simply, euthanasia is killing someone out of an act of mercy, normally a sick person or one close to death. We can argue over whether that is true mercy, but we cannot deny it is killing someone.

Often euthanasia is a lethal injection given by a doctor.

Euthanasia is not pulling the plug on medical treatment that has little or no hope of curing the patient and is only prolonging their life. Nor is a patient refusing treatment considered euthanasia.

Even the Catholic Church, a group highly opposed to euthanasia, allows its members to follow those paths without running afoul of church teaching.

Canadians already enjoy the ability to set out a living will that directs doctors not to keep them alive on life support, not to continue treatment for the sake of treatment. Yet when you ask people why they support euthanasia they will often say, “I don’t want to be hooked up to machines.”

You don’t have to be and there is no need to change the law to accommodate you.

In the Globe and Mail on Thursday, Gary Mason told a tale that most of us have to deal with at some point, a relative living out their last years in less than an ideal way. As Mason wrote of his father, living in a nursing home and able to only give “the slightest acknowledgement” of his son’s presence, it seemed as if he were siding with those want to allow euthanasia.

By the end of Mason’s column he was calling for more palliative care.

Last spring MPs voted 228-59 against a Bloc MPs bill to allow euthanasia.

The bill was so broad it would have allowed hospitals to kill those who were depressed or mentally ill. Even some MPs that might have supported the cause otherwise voted against it.

Another group, seeing the direction the debate was headed, decided to do something to offer an alternative and from that a multi-party committee on palliative care was formed.

Chaired by Conservative Harold Albrecht, Liberal Michelle Simson and New Democrat Joe Comartin, the committee is studying ways to improve the health system for those in need of end-of-life care.

Comartin told me at the time that unless there is proper palliative care, to ease the pain of those who are dying, legalizing euthanasia would result in most people choosing death by injection.

My colleague David Akin wrote on this debate Thursday and pointed to a poll from 1996 showing that most doctors opposed euthanasia. I don’t know if that figure stands today, but the reasons doctors would reject it are simple.

Doctors are trained to heal patients, they look for cures, they look to comfort us when cures do not exist. Legalizing euthanasia in a government-run health-care system like Canada’s would require doctors to also kill their patients.

If we are going to have a debate on a topic as sensitive as euthanasia, let’s make sure we define our terms ahead of time.

Link to the article:

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