BC Civil Liberties Association is in BC Supreme Court starting November 14, to “challenge the law that makes it a crime for physicians to assist seriously and incurably ill people to die.”
What’s a issue is really what’s the meaning of harm?
If the purpose of medical care is to reduce suffering, then we need to move beyond mere pain management to a more whole person course of care that includes quality of life considerations and death with dignity when the patient has little or no possibility of a quality life.
Not doing harm must include the emotional and psychological well being of the patients’ family and support system. If there is no hope of quality of life for the patient, then prolonging the life to maximize quantity is at the cost of the family’s collective mental health and resilience capacity.
As much as “think of the children” is the usual battle cry of those who seek to impose their morality as being above people, there are times when that question should be looked at.
What are children to make of a family situation in which the adults are divided and in disagreement while the continued existence of a grandparent or parent or sibling or other relative is what’s at stake. Children don’t understand quality vs quantity of live nuances, they only know that their loved one is ill and people are fighting about how to best help them and worse it’s between making them comfortable until they die despite all the efforts or allowing them to die when their body can no longer support life, without artificially and frankly, pointlessly, extending that life.
This bizarre idea that some people have of wanting their loved one to die as their god intended is undermined when these same people demand every possible heroic artificial means is used to extend and prolong the life, regardless of how obvious the outcome is to everyone. Extending the life through medical means is delaying death, not saving a life.
There are few things in life that are more agonizing than a family torn apart by differing opinions about end of life decisions – but we can each of us, make our preferences for our own care by having That Conversation with family and friends and even better, in a living will which can be used to guide doctors and medical decision makers.
Even so, not everyone is that organized and prepared and no one should have to suffer because of poor planning.
“Under current law, abusers take their victims to the bank and to the lawyer for a new will,” said Dr. Will Johnston, a Euthanasia Prevention Coalition member. “With legal-assisted suicide, the next stop would be the doctor’s office for a legal prescription. How exactly are we going to detect the victimization when we can’t do it now?”
As for Dr. Johnston, the laws are intended as guides for people to make decisions – that includes doctors. Laws are for people who are willing to obey them and families who are likely to have members abusing or killing each other for fun or profit are going to be detected in the same way that we do now – with doctor vigilance and police work when cases are indicated.
It’s not like doctors are just waiting for legal protection to start killing patients, being able to make end of life decisions doesn’t mean a rush to end lives. It means that every case is evaluated and decided upon on it’s own merits.
But we need the laws in place to ensure that each case is able to be openly and honestly considered, instead of the covert way that this is already happening now.