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Euthanasia laws in Quebec: a debate

by admin January 18, 2011

Euthanasia, or assisted suicide, has been highly controversial and contested for decades, with the famous cases of Robert Latimer and Dr. Jack Kevorkian making it a hot-button issue. Strong points are made on either side of the argument. Some say people should have the right to choose when to end their lives if they are terminally ill, and others say the system could be abused. Since September, hearings have been held across Quebec to gauge public opinion on the issue, and they are set to resume shortly. What do you think? Send your thoughts to the editor at opinions@theconcordian.com

Doctor-assisted suicide should not be a crime for those who are terminally ill

By: Sara Pelletier

Euthanasia is a legalized practice in Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Nevertheless, our “progressive” Western governments have rejected the efforts to change their policies regarding assisted suicide.

In my opinion, individuals who are considered terminally ill should have the right to choose when to end their lives as their illnesses become increasingly unbearable and agonizing. They deserve to be able to keep their dignity as their lives are quickly deteriorating. It is beyond me that we still live in a society where government policies seem to be influenced by religion. Consider why same-sex marriages are still banned in many places today.

Why is it that even animals can be put to sleep while humans are not treated with the same respect? Dying is a hard enough issue to have to deal with in the first place, without having to add the unnecessary snags regarding how one dies and the weeks or months of suffering before that day comes.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, an American pathologist known to many as Dr. Death, served eight years of his 10-to 25-year prison sentence for second-degree murder. Kevorkian claims he helped around 130 of his patients die, and was famously quoted as saying “dying is not a crime.” He remains a right-to-die activist, but has been advised not to counsel people on the subject since his release from prison in 2007.

In a country with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I strongly believe it is hypocritical to limit terminally ill patients’ will and freedom of dying by criminalizing euthanasia.

What does that say about our society and the world we live in today? People often talk about how much we have evolved, but have we really? I consider progress to be a time where incurably sick human beings will be granted the same rights as non-human animals and where we will truly have a say in the way we die.

Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide will be problematic in the long run

By Alex Woznica

The organizers of the hearings on euthanasia are careful to separate the idea of dying with dignity, which they characterize as dying painlessly and surrounded by loved ones, from euthanasia, which most often manifests itself in the form of doctor-assisted suicide. Although it is a great idea to create a more concrete picture of Quebecers’ views on dying with dignity, and to create legislation to reflect those views, the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide in Quebec or Canada would be a grave mistake at this juncture.

Legalizing euthanasia would be a mistake both because it is unnecessary, and because of the potential moral and legal problems that are likely to result from it. Even without doctor-assisted suicide, there are many ways in which a dying person can die with dignity. Already, forms of “sort of” euthanasia occur in Canada. It is not uncommon for doctors to hasten death through medical means, such as increasing dosages of narcotics. As well, all Canadians have the right to end their lives through voluntary stopping of eating and drinking, or simply by refusing treatment. As such, it would appear that Canadians at this point already have ways of dying with dignity without legalizing euthanasia.

Not only does legalizing euthanasia appears to be to a certain extent unnecessary, it would likely cause a number of moral and legal problems.

Doctor-assisted suicide would require the consent of the patient, which would in many cases be hard to verify, considering the impaired condition of many likely candidates. As well, euthanasia would likely still be caught in a moral and legal grey area even if it were legalized, which would result in a situation in which many doctors would be unwilling to perform it.

The Select Committee on Dying with Dignity is performing a valuable service. All Canadians should have the right and opportunity to die with dignity. At least in the context of Quebec, there is a great need to clarify both the public views and the legal situation of dying with dignity. That being said, it would be unfortunate if the hearings turned into a call for the legalizing of euthanasia, as that development would be both unnecessary and morally and legally problematic.

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