Each Friday, Yahoo! Canada News asks Canadians where they stand on the important issues of the day, and our panel of experts tackles the same question.
Ottawa continues to fight a B.C. Supreme Court decision allowing terminally ill people to end their lives with the help of a doctor. Do you think doctor-assisted suicide should be legal in Canada?
Here's what you said:
Here's what we said:
Thomas Bink: Tough one … and kinda grim, too. The way I see it is that every individual has the right to decide how or when they want to die. If they’ve made peace with themselves and their families and they’d rather die than suffer from a debilitating ailment, they have every right to make that decision. It definitely gets trickier when a person’s state of mind is in question. And as for doctors? Well, I think they have a right to decide if they want to participate in the process, too. I understand the debate. But we live in a free country, and part of that freedom should include how we want to die.
Matthew Coutts: Suicide should never be taken lightly, even doctor-assisted suicide. But do I believe there are times when the more humane thing to do is accept a terminally-ill person’s desire to die and pull the metaphorical plug? Yes, I absolutely do. I would recommend any patient in their right mind consider every option, seek out every shred of help, before considering suicide. But when the end is inevitable and the journey there painful, I understand how that decision could be made. I feel for the doctors who have to make the decision about whether or not to participate. It must go against their nature to end a life, rather than save it, and I wonder what feelings those people are left with. But they are also in the best position to make the call. They know their patient’s state of mind, they have seen before where the journey ends. I think we lean on them in times like those.
Andy Radia: This is a tough question. On the one hand, if I was ever diagnosed with a terminal illness I would want the choice to end my life if it became unbearable to live. But having said that, I think legalizing euthanasia would be the beginnings of slippery slope to legalizing suicide. If we were to legalize we would need checks and balances — but is there really any way to effectively regulate it? How do we know the person making the decision is really in a sound state of mind? How do we know that the patient isn't being pressured or manipulated to end their life? I'm sorry guys, I'm really on the fence on this one.
Bink: Right, I guess it’s the intangibles that make this such a grey-area issue, and why the federal government continues its fight it through the B.C. Supreme Court. We’re always raising red-flags about mental illness when a suicide occurs … how are we to understand the state of mind of a long-suffering patient? It is difficult. But I still believe in the right of the individual to make his or her own choices – and this is one of those things that should stay between a patient, his doctor and God. I think it’s a discussion between patient and doctor, and governments or courts have no place there.
Coutts: I wonder if this grey area is not exactly where the debate should remain … I totally agree with Andy about the dangers of legislation. First, it is only in the case of terminally ill people, then maybe it’s an option for those with clinical depression or severe disabilities. It should not get to that point. The way things currently stand, a doctor must be absolutely set in their convictions that they are doing the right thing. The act must stand up to scrutiny. Doctor-assisted suicide must be available, but should have enough checks and balances to ensure it remains a last resort.
Radia: I agree with you Matt: Doctor assisted suicide should not be an option for those with clinical depression or disabilities. But I think there's even a grey area when we talk about terminal illness. I know terminal means something that cannot be cured but we've got treatments and palliative care and new drug discoveries. We need to ensure that the patient knows about their options and we need to know that they're not making the decision to end life based on a bad day, a bad week or month. I think those are the things that need to be debated and then ultimately legislated by governments or regulated by the medical colleges.
[ Last week's POC: Should gay boys be allowed to be boy scouts? ]
Coutts: Fair point, but my fear is that we come to a decision on what can be treated with assisted suicide and those lines become too stringent. If my doctor and I agree I am in too much pain to continue but my condition doesn’t fit requirements, where does that leave me? Trust the doctors on a case-by-case basis, I say.
Bink: I agree to all points. This subject isn’t as cut-and-dried as I thought when we started this discussion. No wonder it’s so difficult for the courts to decide on.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments area below.
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