I recently applauded the Province of Quebec, which is attempting to legalize assisted death. There is no better example of what’s wrong with the Charter of Freedoms when it does not allow freedom from pain on the death bed.
I did not ask for reader response, but received a ton of it.
From WP: “I enjoy your column in the Kelowna Courier and I couldn’t agree more on assisted suicide. I’m a volunteer counsellor at a hospice. The problem is that families will not let go even though the patient is ready for the big trip. I have seen them rescind ‘do not resuscitate’ and have to remind them this decision is not about them, but the wishes of the patient.”
From Medicine Hat: “Thank you, oh thank you. As a veterinarian I watched in horror the last days of my dying mother. She was for assisted death, but we could do nothing because of our country’s religious rule of government. But if it had been a dog, cat or cow, I would have to euthanize because it is the law!”
A reader from the Victoria Times Colonist says: “My thanks for bringing this issue forward, a courageous act and a rare public statement by a physician. Probably you will be attacked by enemies you didn’t know you had.”
But not everyone sends roses. From Toronto: “The good doctor is skipping a step. What we need is more palliative care centres to allow quality of life at the end of life. He forgets that pain can be managed.”
Another replied: “You tend to ignore the abuses in Holland, Belgian and elsewhere. Please open your mind and investigate before you write. People in Holland carry cards asking not to be killed when taken to a hospital.”
From Ottawa: “I despair at what you have written. People must die like Christ did on the cross.”
GS writes from Winnipeg: “What about those who suffer from unbearable non-terminal illness? We should be focusing on the degree of suffering a person is willing to live with. I’ve been tormented by depression and anxiety for over 20 years. If we live in a compassionate society, I should be allowed to end my life by assisted suicide rather than resorting to do-it-yourself methods that may end in more suffering if botched.”
From Thunder Bay: “I hope your article generates a ground swell of like-minded opinion. At night, my 96-year-old mother moans and cries to be released from this life. The doctor is unable to relieve her great discomfort. We would not allow a loved pet to suffer this way nor should my mother have to endure such a long parting from this world.”
VS says: “As a former nurse, I have seen patients die in inhumane ways. For those who argue we are playing God, we already do it by replacing umpteen body parts.”
From LK in Niagara Falls: “Several years ago, my 90-year-old mother was dying and in severe pain. The doctors started a morphine drip and asked if we wanted to keep increasing the dose. We agreed, and she finally died peacefully. Keep up the good work.”
An email from JM says: “Debating bigots is a waste of time. Russel Ogden tried debating Margaret Sommerville. She simply tweeted past and present students and filled the room with cronies. Poor Russel was toast before he had a chance to talk.”
Some readers severely criticized me for not recognizing the Beatitudes taught by Christ and the laws given to Moses by God.
But for the most part, readers were pleased to see that Quebec was taking a stance on this controversial issue and hoped that other provinces would do so. The final tally showed that about 70 per cent agreed with assisted death, but the others dead set against it.
Woody Allen once remarked: “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Unfortunately we have to be there and, at the moment, accept what fate has to offer. Assisted death will not happen tomorrow.
» Dr. Gifford-Jones is a graduate of The University of Toronto and The Harvard Medical School. He took post-graduate training in surgery at the Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, McGill University in Montreal and Harvard. During his medical training he has been a family doctor, hotel doctor and ship's surgeon. His medical column is published by 70 Canadian newspapers, several in the U.S. and the Epoch Times which has editions in a number of European countries.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 31, 2013