Canadian Supreme Court allows doctor-assisted suicide in specific cases

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canmark

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CBC: Supreme Court allows doctor-assisted suicide in specific cases

People with grievous and irremediable medical conditions should have the right to ask a doctor to help them die, Canada's highest court says in a unanimous ruling.

The Supreme Court of Canada says a law that makes it illegal for anyone to help a person commit suicide should be amended to allow doctors to help in specific situations.

The ruling only applies to competent adults with enduring, intolerable suffering who clearly consent to ending their lives.

The court has given federal and provincial governments 12 months to craft legislation to respond to the ruling; the ban on doctor-assisted suicide stands until then. If the government doesn't write a new law, the court's exemption for physicians will stand.

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The case was brought by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association on behalf of two women, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, both of whom have died since the legal battle began. Both women had degenerative diseases and wanted the right to have a doctor help them die.

A lawyer on behalf of Carter and Taylor argued that they were being discriminated against because their physical disabilities didn't allow them to kill themselves the way able-bodied people could.

Carter went to Switzerland with her daughter, Lee, to die. Taylor died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2012.
 

Vincent

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It only applies to adults now. But wait for it.
Vincent
 

canmark

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It only applies to adults now. But wait for it.
Vincent
Do you mean that you think that it SHOULD apply to people under 18?
 

canmark

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For Oregon man with ALS, ‘death with dignity’ was a relief

Ed Horn, a 76-year-old geologist, was dying of ALS. A doctor asked him if he had any religious qualms about his decision to end his life by giving himself a lethal medication. He said no.

“I’m a scientist,” Nancy Horn, his wife of 54 years, remembers him responding. “I believe in the earth.”
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Oregon became the first U.S. state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide only after a 1994 ballot measure eked through by the slimmest of margins, 51 per cent to 49 per cent. The Death With Dignity Act, which came into force in 1997, now has an approval rating of about 80 per cent.
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Despite its popularity in principle, doctor-assisted suicide is rarely chosen by dying patients. Through 2013, 752 people had taken lethal doses. Another 421 people had prescriptions written but did not make use of them. The government said 71 people died under the law in 2013 — 0.2 per cent of all people who died in Oregon that year.

Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old Californian with terminal cancer who moved to Oregon last year to die, was an exception: while eight in 10 people who have made use of the Oregon law had cancer, nine in 10 were 55 or older. The state does not track how many people arrived from elsewhere to take advantage of the right to die, but there is no evidence of a flood.

“The idea that people would rush here, that Oregon would become a death destination, is not borne out in the statistics,” Sandeen said.
With the Canadian Supreme Court overturning the law against physician aided suicide, there have been plenty of news reports appear in Canada. It seems to me that those who object to this have two main issues.

One, they are confusing physician aided suicide with euthanasia. In the former, the person chooses to end their own life. Euthanasia is someone choosing to end someone else’s life – presumably for merciful reasons (like the way an animal may be put down to end it’s suffering).

Two, that this starts a slippery slope where people (the elderly or disabled people) are killed against their will. Again, this has nothing to do with ending someone’s life against the will. It has nothing to do with not providing proper palliative care to the elderly or assistance to people with disabilities, either.

I think the above quoted stats disprove these contentions. In Oregon, only 71 people chose this method to end their life in 2013 – it’s uncommon. 8/10 had cancer and 9/10 were 55 or older.

Due to the severely debilitating nature of ALS, I think that it is important that we have this choice. Certainly it’s not for everyone, but for those who choose it it seems the most humane thing.
 

Vincent

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If you want to read something scary try the Groningen protocol. It lays out the conditions under which you can put newborns down. In Belgium you can take the kid home and have thirty days to change your mind. You're looking at post birth abortion. You only have to buy in a little bit at a time.
Vincent
 

gooseberry

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Personally speaking, I don't believe anyone should be able to decide for someone else if they have the right to die. No one, but the person experiencincing the illness, understands what it means for that person. I watched both my parents die young from cancer in their 60s, my sister died at 37 of ovarian cancer. The choices they all made are very different than what I would choose. But, I am glad they all got to have some control over their death. Just my humble opinion.......
 

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Personally speaking, I don't believe anyone should be able to decide for someone else if they have the right to die. No one, but the person experiencincing the illness, understands what it means for that person. I watched both my parents die young from cancer in their 60s, my sister died at 37 of ovarian cancer. The choices they all made are very different than what I would choose. But, I am glad they all got to have some control over their death. Just my humble opinion.......
I'm in total agreement with you, especially after watching my mother-in-law deteriorate to an unrecognizable state with intestinal, then liver, cancer. So very heartbreaking to see her in the palliative care ward, on heavy meds for her pain, sleeping, then waking up and seeing us, crying pitifully, then falling asleep again...
 

nebrhahe53

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we should all have the right to end our lives, especially with a disease as horrible as ALS. I just dont by this slippery slope mush. Thats language right to lifers use to justify making people live by their religious beliefs.
 

canmark

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Somewhat related to this issue is an Israeli film, The Farewell Party, that is to be released in North America this spring. I saw it last fall at the Toronto Film Festival and can recommend it. It received a large number of nominations at the Israeli equivalent of the Academy Awards (Ophir Awards), and won for best actor.

The movie is surprisingly funny – and touching – and is described as: "a unique, compassionate and unlikely funny story of a group of friends at a Jerusalem retirement home who build a machine for self-euthanasia in order to help their terminally ill friend. When rumors of the machine begin to spread, more and more people ask for their help, and the friends are faced with a life and death dilemma."

The film does not directly deal with ALS, but does deal with the issue of dying with dignity – both from the perspective of the person who is dying and from the perspective of the loved ones of the person who is dying.

The trailer highlights some of the humor which helps to lighten the otherwise serious subject matter: THE FAREWELL PARTY Trailer | Festival 2014 - YouTube
 
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