Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Assisted Death, Palliative Care And Human Rights

An article by Kim Barnhardt in the Canadian Medical Association Journal discusses an article written by Mary Shariff, from the faculty of law at the University of Manitoba. The article is basically stating that the issue of assisted suicide must be viewed within the context of human rights. Based on a human rights model, the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide should not be considered in Canada until palliative care is adequately and equally developed.

This is a very strong arguement considering the fact that Quebec is considering turning a blind-eye to acts of euthanasia, even though they are not a leader in palliative care and many of their citizens lack access to good palliative care.

The result would be that people would be given the choice between suffering or dying, in other words choice would simply be an illusion.

The article stated:
The issues of assisted death and palliative care in Canada should be discussed in the context of human rights, states a commentary published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

While the topic of assisted death has been a recent discussion in Canada, we cannot address until the issue of equal access to palliative care has been resolved. In Canada, at least 70% of residents lack access to palliative care and for those who do have access, it is inequitable.

"The equalization of palliative care must occur before legalization of assisted suicide, otherwise, there runs the very real risk that a decision to request assisted death is not fully consenting because of the lack of meaningful choice in the ability to alleviate pain and distress," writes Mary Shariff, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba.

She cites articles 12 the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health as requiring that the scope of the Canadian palliative care system be fully optimized before assisted death is legalized.

"The decisions surrounding our policies on health care must be considered in the broader context of the express commitments and aspirations that we have made as a country. If our tax dollars fall short of providing integrated end-of-life care to all Canadians equally, then our legislators ought to acknowledge and incorporate that fact before moving forward with the legalization of assisted death," concludes the author.

Source:
Kim Barnhardt
Canadian Medical Association Journal

The report from the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care will soon be released. It is important for all Canadians that the recommendations from this all-party ad-hoc committee be implemented.

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