Quebec has become the first province in Canada to propose legislation, Bill 52, which would make euthanasia legal. This groundbreaking bill would allow terminally ill patients the choice of having a lethal dose of medication administered by a doctor to willfully end their life. It is similar to assisted suicide, except that a doctor is responsible for administering the medication, instead of providing it to the patient for them to self-administer. Although the bill will not have public hearings until the fall, it has revived the debate on a person’s right-to-die.
According to Angela Mulholland of CTVNews.ca, “assisted suicide and euthanasia are both illegal under Canada’s Criminal Code, but the Quebec government says it has jurisdiction on the matter…” Véronique Hivon, Quebec’s Social Services Minister, has assured the public that this bill will not violate the Criminal Code, because “there is nothing in the Criminal Code that deals specifically with an act to put an end to suffering in a medical context.”
There are many different opinions on the subject, but most people seem to feel passionately about the issue. One of the main arguments against euthanasia is that it amounts to ‘playing God.’ Some argue that you will die when you are supposed to and humans should not interfere. However, this argument fails to acknowledge that we have already artificially prolonged the lives of many Canadians through our medical care system. These people, if left to God, would have otherwise died. For instance, diabetes is now a manageable disease, with current life expectancies of over 70 years, when historically diagnosis was a death sentence.
Another argument is that legalizing euthanasia will expose patients to pressure to end their lives against their will. A family could push a sick elderly relative to choose euthanasia, so they will not have to pay for expensive medical treatment or dedicate their time to care for them. However, in Switzerland, where assisted suicide has been legal since 1940, they have found a way to effectively combat this issue. All assisted suicides are videotaped to ensure that no crimes are committed, some of them are even viewable on YouTube, and often police and other officials will be present. In addition, after a patient’s suicide, friends and family are interviewed to ensure that they did not have any selfish motives that may have pushed the patient to choose death.
One main argument supporting euthanasia is that the choice to die represents a fundamental human right. Every person should have the right to choose what happens to their body not only during their life, but also at the end of it. It should be up to every individual to decide for themselves when it is the right time to die. Many people think suicide is selfish, but it can also be selfish to expect a person to live when they are in significant physical or emotional pain.
This is not to say that death should be taken lightly; we do not know anything about death, except that it is final. We have no understanding of what happens after we die, and we likely never will. We have established religions and philosophies to try to explain this gaping hole in our knowledge, but the truth is that we do not really know. However, we do know that death is unavoidable and imminent. Euthanasia is just speeding up the process of something that will undoubtedly occur anyways. So for those with a terminal illness, they may want the choice of a dignified death, instead of suffering while their health declines. This and the possibility of burdening their family with their care for months or years can greatly influence that decision. Euthanasia, in some cases, could be the most selfless thing someone could do for their friends and family.
Nicole Doucette is a fourth year Mineral Engineering student.