Saturday, May 17, 2014

The current debate on assisted suicide is sadly misplaced.

By Dr Rene Leiva, published in the Ottawa Citizen - May 17, 2014.

Sign the Declaration of Hope as a positive response to euthanasia and assisted suicide.


I find the current debate on assisted suicide in the Parliament sadly misplaced. As a doctor who has been caring for the elderly and dying for 12 years now, I believe we are missing the boat on this one.

To paraphrase a philosopher, the answer to euthanasia is not a pill but a person, not a word but an act. It is an act of loving presence. As Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl says, 
"love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality."
The experience of many, including mine, is that the presence of a loved one to the sick and fragile and the voicing to the patient that they are being truly and honestly loved is what gives true dignity.

When suffering and loneliness arrives, if someone honestly tells the patient that they are worth so much to them no matter what, that they are loved and needed just by being present, I think it would be very hard for them to go ahead with their plan.

I can often spend only limited time with my patients, but friends and family can offer something I can't. I can deal easily with the pain of the body, but I can't do the same with the pain of the soul. At the end, it is all about the command that says, "I was sick and you took care of me."

I hope I can teach this to my children.

Rene Leiva, MD,
Palliative care and care of the elderly, Ottawa Ontario

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