Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Lure of Euthanasia in Quebec

This article is based on the opinion article written by Dr Guy O'Reilly, who practiced family medicine from 1968 - 2007 in Maniwaki. The original article was published on September 9, 2013, by La Presse and was "google translated" to English. 

O'Reilly offers insight into the culture of the euthanasia debate and Bill 52 in Quebec.

By Alex Schadenberg

In his article, O'Reilly examines the euthanasia debate based on cultural symptoms that he suggests, the Quebec government is attempting to solve by legalizing euthanasia. He compares the societal response to the issues in our environment to the societal response to the issues of comfort, suffering and dying.

In his first paragraph O'Reilly suggests that euthanasia is a response to the fear that people have in relation to suffering or not being adequately cared for. He compares this problem to the problem of aggressive treatment and concludes that doctors respond with aggressive and often futile treatment for the dying for same reason that euthanasia is offered. O'Reilly states:
It is this same fear that too often keeps the health care system and health care for the dying. These fears can be abandoned except when the end-of-life (palliative care) are absent or inadequate ... With this fear, we try to push the dead as far as possible by aggressive therapy. In other words, euthanasia and aggressive treatment have a common cause and legalizing euthanasia will not solve the problem of aggressive therapy.
O'Reilly then explains how legalizing euthanasia increases the demand for euthanasia. He suggests that the Belgium experience with euthanasia has led to: 
"a smooth slide toward increasing openness to euthanasia."
He looks at euthanasia and suggests that it offers an "illusion of choice." He states:
Naively, we expect to freely decide our choice of end of life. We do not die alone, but in a society that influences our choices, especially in extreme fatigue and weakness. ... The dying will be receptive to the entourage and hear the nonverbal invitation to reflect on the possibility of euthanasia. In the context of suffering and fragility, can we actually speak of free choice? The choice of dying will be motivated primarily by some subtle and environment pressure and there will be more and more requests for euthanasia.
O'Reilly looks at the concept of Dignity which seems to drive the euthanasia debate. He writes:
The protagonists of euthanasia are armed with arguments that do not hold up, they invoke the loss of dignity felt by the dying invoked as a reason for euthanasia. It is a false argument, because dignity is intrinsic to the human being and beyond the subjective dignity. ... In my experience with end-of-life, I have witnessed unexpected reversals in the dying persons look, attitude and behavior. A depressed person, desperate, bedridden with incontinence can regain confidence in life through consistency of care, given with compassion, generosity and love by dedicated staff. ... with good medication monitoring by both the nursing and physician and especially an open attitude in respect of silence and listening.
O'Reilly suggests that the euthanasia debate is - A Decoy or an illusion. He writes:
To respond to a complex and heartbreaking situation at the end of life, euthanasia offers a simple and effective solution, but it is an illusion. ... Our unhealthy relationship with suffering and death is involved. We must have the courage to ask to correct the problem by moving to a much more constructive societal project than euthanasia. 
O'Reilly concludes: 
Compliance with the prohibition of killing in force for centuries in different cultures is part of a rich heritage that we must bequeath to future generations and to do otherwise would be a betrayal and loss of society.
Links to other similar articles:
- Quebec's euthanasia bill (Bill 52) is based on the Belgium euthanasia law.
- Be Careful with Euthanasia.
- Why the Quebec government must reject Bill 52.
- Bill 52 is bad medicine for Quebecers with disabilities.
- Quebec Euthanasia bill (Bill 52) is a very dangerous bill.