Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Quebec: Be Careful with Euthanasia

The following letter was published in the National Post on August 21, 2013.
Margaret Somerville
By Margaret Somerville
This story notes that the Canadian Medical Association’s policy opposing euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide has “not [been] updated since 2007,” implying it needs updating. But a six-year timespan is minuscule for a policy that dates back nearly 2,500 years.
Morphine being administered “to control terminal pain” is proffered as an example of euthanasia “already [being] practiced.” But this is not euthanasia. Moreover, properly chosen and titrated pain management does relieve pain and does not kill people, contrary to popular belief.
The concept of “dying healthy” is, to say the least, puzzling — if you are healthy, you don’t die. That leads to Quebec’s Bill 52, which would allow “medically assisted death” (euthanasia). This story refers to “dying” people having access to euthanasia, but it would not be limited to them. Rather, it would include those who “suffer from an incurable serious illness; suffer from an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and suffer from constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain which cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable.” In short, people who are not terminally ill or mentally, but not physically, ill, could have access to euthanasia. Many disabled, old, frail and vulnerable people would fulfill these criteria.
Margaret Somerville, McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, Montreal.

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