Euthanasia in Canada – a Possible Slippery Slope

With the vast majority of Canadians in favour of euthanasia, doctor-assisted suicide may soon become the norm. As we move towards legalizing euthanasia, we need to look at both sides of this very serious coin. Last February, Canada’s Supreme Court stated that denying euthanasia is, in fact, a violation of Canadians human rights.

At this point, we’re quickly approaching the one year mark – February 6th, 2016. Governments, including federal, provincial and territory, are expected to put this decision into effect, passing a law that will support doctor-assisted suicide. Although the federal government has requested a six-month extension, the deadline is fast approaching.

These changes are immense, both in terms of our legal system and standard medical practices. Although 43 recommendations have been suggested, only time will tell whether or not they’ll all be implemented. If so, Canada will be the world leader in terms of the most advanced euthanasia legislation – surpassing Belgium and the Netherlands.

How do Canadians feel about this? How are doctors responding? What are the limitations? On December 10th, Quebec officially passed the law – although there was an appeal from physicians and others, stating that ending one’s life is not the answer, but instead, more advanced palliative care is the most effective solution.

What Canadians Have to Say vs Physicians

Based on multiple polls, the results are actually quite surprising. Of the 1,440 participants, 77 percent ruled in favour of doctor-assisted suicide for those who are terminally ill. In comparison to a poll that was administered just four years ago, support is now up 10 percent amongst Canadians, with varying degrees of support across the country.

On the other side of the coin, the majority of doctors have stated that they will not actively help a patient end their life. For physicians, this act is changing the fundamental relationship in which they have with their patients. Those groups who are opposed, have stated that there are clear dangers associated with the legalization of assisted suicide.

As you can imagine, for an individual who is in constant suffering, relieving them of their pain seems like a humane option. With that being said, this act would need to be balanced with immense responsibility, ensuring that this sensitive and serious act is not abused.

If this law is passed, what will happen to the progression of quality palliative care? It’s troubling because in many cases, those who once wished to die based on their symptoms, change their mind once effective palliative care is implemented. What if individuals do not have all the information they need before making the decision to end their life?

Although the law would state that someone would need to be mentally competent to make such a decision, there are far too many possible factors regarding a lack of appropriate judgement. For those that have suffered a stroke or have developed dementia, for instance, how will their reduced brain function affect their decision?

There are also the troubling effects of depression on decision-making. Although depression amongst terminally ill individuals is a reality, what about seniors who are battling illness and loneliness? In these specific cases, a little love and care can go a long way. Once again, it’s a slippery slope – those who are most vulnerable may feel pressured to take their lives.

As stated in the National Post, other areas across the United States and Europe are models in which should not be ignored. The idea is that as the practice of euthanasia becomes normalized, the criteria becomes increasingly relaxed. There’s a clear concern for those who suffer from issues such as depression and anxiety.

In Oregon, assisted suicide has been practiced for the past two decades, and although those who suffer from mood and anxiety issues are supposed to be excluded, it’s been stated that some doctors deem assisted suicide a rational solution based on personal circumstances. Under the law in 2014, only three out of 105 patients who died were referred to a psychological exam.

The government is welcoming Canadians to voice their own personal opinions on the matter. You can register for an in-person consultation, either online or by phone.

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