Thursday, February 18, 2010

Choosing to die with dignity

A letter in the Ottawa Citizen that argues in favour of legalizing euthanasia also offers the reasons why it should not be legalized.

N Ann Smith states with reference to the story of Kay Carter who went to Switzerland to the Dignitas Suicide clinic that:

Over the last two decades Canada has taken tentative steps toward legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia, only to be halted and deflected by groups such as the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and individuals such as Dr. Margaret Somerville, who present strong cases of their own.

When, in 15 or 20 years' time, our already overburdened health-care system will be staggering under the economic and social weight of a disproportionately aged population, these and many others will perhaps remember Kay Carter's wonderful confident smile and her certain readiness to die.

I promise them that there will be many of us, and not necessarily terminally ill, who will be ready to follow her example.

I agree that the Canadian health-care system is facing greater demands as the population ages, but is euthanasia an answer to health care costs or will it create the duty to die that many people with disabilities predict will eventually become the reality?

Further to that, Smith comments that many people who are not terminally ill will be ready to follow the example of Kay Carter. The fact is that when Canadians are asked about whether or not they support the legalization of euthanasia, it is always assumed that it is only for the terminally ill. But Smith's comments are actually the same as the reality concerning Bill C-384, meaning the bill will allow euthanasia for people with chronic physical or mental pain, (ie depression).

Remember the concept of choice is an illusion when speaking about legalizing euthanasia because the person who actually carries out the act is usually a physician. This is not about people commiting self-suicide, it is about giving physicians the right to directly and intentionally take your life. The only question is under what circumstance, but even that is subjective.


Anonymous said...

What does EPC proffer as an alternative to someone who chooses to end their life? That they jump off a building or shoot their head off? While these are tried and true methods, should there not be some other effective solution available which isn't so...messy?

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear Anonymous:

That is ridiculous. Your comments make it appear that suicide is a necessity. The fact is that most people don't commit suicide and don't even consider it an alternative.

Further to that, the question is why does someone want to commit suicide. We can abandon people to their desperation or we can care about them.

You choose to abandon them to their fears and I choose to care

Anonymous said...

Is it so unreasonable that someone might rationally choose to end their life?

All life ends. Is not the last great freedom of the self-actualized person the choosing of their death's time and device?

If we wish not to abandon people, might we not have to offer assistance in a few cases?

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear Anonymous:

I am not a vitalist. I have no wish to deny someone a natural death, but it is a ridiculous concept to say that we should give physicians the right to be directly and intentionally involved with taking our lives and then say, in the same breath, don't worry there won't be any colateral damage (other deaths).

Further to that, your argument only works when you are talking about suicide. But since we are talking about assisted suicide or euthanasia, then your argument fails.

I would never abandon anyone, but since when did dignity come from giving someone else the right to take your life.

Dignity comes when we care for the other and journey with the other, not abandoning the other to their suicidal ideation or killing them because they supposedly asked for it.

IB said...

I am mainly responding to Anonymous and to Alex Schadenber. Dear Anonymous I completely understand your comment. A person who chooses to end their life may be a person who:
1. Rejects violence (jumping of bridges, hanging, slashing one's wrist, throwing oneself under a train etc...)
2. Can not handle more suffering
3. Is afraid that he/she may survive such gruesome suicide attemp and end up in worst condition
4. Is too afraid to committ such violent and painful act.

Alex, obviously you are not suffering to such a degree to understand that to some people suicide may feel like a necessity.
They may have exhausted many options, may have been suffering enormously for many years and continue to deteriorate. They may feel great shame in not being able to meet their most basic human needs or to have others witness their state of complete desintegration. They may have families who ignore, disrespect, reject or even abuse them because of their condition or because they are a burden.
I agree with you that dignity comes when people care for and journey with those who suffer but there are very few poeple who can do this for the most seriously ill or disabled.