Aug 3, 2012, 9:39 AM
Post #1 of 1
Itís a subject most of us would rather not think about, much less talk about, but the issue of assisted suicide is one that is gaining more and more prominence, as individuals with incurable diseases, such as Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disease seek to gain control over the conditions under which they die. Most recently, the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued a 395-page ruling that held the current laws against assisted suicide are discriminatory against individuals who are disabled. The logic behind the ruling is that since suicide is not illegal in Canada, disabled individuals are unfairly disadvantaged over able-bodied individuals, who are able to take their own lives.
Assisted suicide: an uncomfortable discussion
Itís an interesting ruling and one sure to stir up no end of controversy. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed the suit on behalf of one Gloria Taylor, an ALS patient, who sought the legal right to decide the time of her death. Opposing the suit were both the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of British Columbia, which was granted intervener status by the court.
Of course, the ruling is under appeal and its opponents expect it to be overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Whichever side of this issue one supports, itís important that we talk about it, as the age wave currently washing over North America, will certainly force the discussion. In addition, baby boomers tend to be much more assertive about what happens to them, as many are seeing their parents die under conditions that are less than dignified.
The basic position of those opposed to assisted suicide is that it represents the slippery slope to euthanasia and elder abuse. Personally, I donít see how it could, but everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. Assisted suicide would empower individuals who know they are terminal and do not look forward to months or even years of burdensome dependence and suffering by offering them an alternative to enduring such pain and indignity.
Currently physician-assisted suicide is legal in countries such as Holland, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as 3 American states. Given the attention focused on this issue, itís safe to assume there will be other jurisdictions that will follow suit in legalizing exit strategies.
Certainly the Ďslippery slopeí argument needs to be carefully heeded, as we do not want to encourage the elimination of our elders because they are a burden. A second valid objection to assisted suicide is that individuals wishing to terminate their lives need to be of sound mind and fully cognizant of the impact of their decision. This would disqualify individuals who are depressed and otherwise healthy, as there are treatment plans for depression. Suicide isnít one of them.
Having witnessed the agonizing passing of my father-in-law, of whom I was exceedingly fond, I resolved that if ever I were to find myself wracked with incurable cancer, I would want to end my life before it got to the point of being unbearable.
And thatís the crux of the whole discussion surrounding assisted suicide. It is a very personal decision and no one should be forced into it. By the same token, a terminally ill person who does not wish to languish in agony at deathís doorstep shouldnít be kept from deciding when to end life and should be helped if help is requested.
Klaus Rohrich is President and Creative Director of Taylor/Rohrich Associates Inc., a marketing and advertising firm that specializes in niche marketing retirement real estate developments