Choosing To Die

You knew it was going to happen. It was only a matter of time. A court has ruled that Canada’s medically assisted dying (MAD) law is unconstitutional.

The checks built into the legislation, to ensure that only those terminally ill could use physician assisted suicide, have been overturned. Seems it is discrimination not to allow those not on the verge of death to have their doctors kill them.

This comes as no surprise to those who opposed legalizing euthanasia. It wasn’t that they wanted people to suffer unnecessarily, but a recognition that once Pandora opens that box it is too late. The genie doesn’t get stuffed back into the bottle.

No longer must death be “imminent” which means, as I understand it, MAD is now open to all. We are all going to die someday. My death is, I expect, still decades away, but I could ask a doctor to kill me now and, as I understand the ruling, he or she would be legally obliged to fulfill my request. What a blessing for the mentally ill to know that now someone else can kill them. Suicide, by whatever method, is fraught with peril. Sometimes it doesn’t work.

I wonder if this legal development will bring MAD back as an election issue. I don’t remember it being discussed in 2015. Then the Liberal government proposed the idea and rammed the legislation through. (Rammed may seem harsh, however they invoked closure, a parliamentary tool that limits debate on a matter. MPs did not fully debate the pros and cons of the issue.)

Former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell is probably best known for her statement that an election campaign is not the time to discuss important issues. She was pilloried for saying that (and there was more depth to her statement than is usually quoted), but she was right.

Election campaigns are short, and serious debate is relegated to sound bites and headlines. I’d love to see the party leaders have a round-table discussion on medically assisted dying, but I know that isn’t going to happen. I suspect instead that none of them will want to touch the issue, except perhaps the Liberal leader, who may think it was an accomplishment to legalize euthanasia. But even he may not bring it up, because then he would also have top address the court decision expanding the criteria and what that means.

Those who three years ago were warning about a slippery slope are sadly being proven right. Not only is imminent death no longer a requirement for assisted suicide, but I can see this ruling being used by others to push the envelope further. After all, what right does society have to tell people they may not end their lives? That’s perhaps a theological or philosophical question – though as a taxpayer I object to paying for doctors to kill people. If you are using the publicly-funded health care system to end your life, then it is my business too.

Somehow though, I suspect we have accepted the status quo and no-one really cares. Until the politicians (and courts) decide that MAD is mandatory after a certain age. But by then it may be too late.

One comment

  1. You left out activism in the courts. Why don’t the courts say “this interpretation was not intended by the legislators / the legislators used specific language and one must assume your interpretation was considered and rejected”

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