AN ISSUE OF HUMAN RIGHTS FOR CANADIANS
WHAT IS IT?
Physician-assisted suicide occurs when a doctor facilitates a terminally ill patient's death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act. The legalization of physician-assisted suicide is imperative to human freedom, ending suffering, and allowing dignity.
WHO DOES IT AFFECT?
The legalization of physician-assisted suicide would ensure human freedom and dignity to terminally ill patients. A competent, terminally ill person would be given the right to avoid suffering and end their own life. Family and friends would be able to see their loved one die with dignity and of their own accord.
In Canada, a mentally stable adult can legally insist that life-support be stopped even if death would be a result. Patients also have the right to choose to refuse food and liquids therefore starving to death. This proves that Canada recognizes that terminally patients have a right to choose what to do with their bodies -however each method still involves a cruel and painful way of dying. When a rational and knowledgable individual is making an important life decision, the government should not interfere. The Supreme Court of Canada is in the process of ruling on physician-assisted suicide therefore it is a current issue of rights in society.
The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland are countries that had the courage and compassion to legally allow doctor-assisted suicide. The right to physician-assisted suicide should be recognized as a fundamental right in Canada.
WHO'S LIFE IS IT ANYWAYS?
“Why make people suffer for no reason when there is an alternative” states Donald Low (CBC News 2013). Established Canadian Dr. Donald Low, who was the face of the SARS crisis in 2003, was diagnosed with a brain-stem tumour slowly deteriorating his vision, hearing and strength. In the days before his death, Low recorded a video urging the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide. “I wish they could live in my body for 24 hours and I think they would change their opinions” said Dr. Low (CBC News 2013). He died an undignified death eight days later.
Through the data collected, it was found that 92% of males and 96% of females (ages 16-17) were already aware of physician-assisted suicide and what it results in. Therefore the debate on physician-assisted suicide is very current and recognized in society. The majority of participants (96% of males and 76% of females) have experienced a family member or close friend go through or die of a terminal illness. This data reveals that a great amount of people would be touched personally by the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. 84% of males and 76% of females that participated agreed that a person’s quality of life is lower and maybe lacking some dignity when they are living with a terminal illness. Almost all participants supported the right for someone with a terminal illness to die with dignity and be allowed the right to physician-assisted suicide (96% of males and 88% of females). The same number of participants also believed that a patient should have the right to control the way in which they die. When a rational and knowledgable individual is making an important life decision, the government should not interfere. Participants agreed that right to physician-assisted suicide should be recognized as a fundamental right in Canada. 92% of males and 88% of females stated that they associate with the Christian/Catholic religious values. Of the participants that were Christian/Catholic, 90% stated that they still support the right to physician-assisted suicide despite the values of life their religion promotes. In addition, of people surveyed, 60% of males and 72% of females believe that taking part in physician-assisted suicide does not go against a doctor’s oath to do no harm. This concludes that despite pro-life beliefs, human beings deserve the rights and freedoms that they need. All the data accumulated also revealed that more males than females support the right to physician-assisted suicide.
The primary research collected confirms that physician-assisted suicide is an issue of human rights and freedoms. One that is recognized and supported greatly by society. The legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Canada would mean great things for the human freedoms, suffering, and dignity of terminally ill Canadians.
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THE HUMAN PERSPECTIVE THROUGH THEORISTS AND THEORIES
In the human perspective, forcing someone that is dying to continue to endure suffering is inhumane and lacking compassion. Terminally ill patients struggle through each pain filled day at very low qualities of life. To force suffering upon fellow human beings without even truly understanding the capacity of the pain is nothing but cruel. Faye Girsh EdD said, “It should be considered as much of a crime to make someone live who with justification does not wish to continue as it is to take life without consent“ (How Shall We Die 2001). Human suffering is not right in any way shape or form.
Dignity is a basic human characteristic of deserving of honour or respect. It is a fundamental quality that all humans hope to live and die with. A terminally ill patient with a debilitating disease may have no control over bodily functions or daily activities and no control over the death that faces them. Sue Rodriguez suffered from a debilitating disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Rodriguez took her case to the Supreme Court of Canada and narrowly lost on the matter. “If I cannot give consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?”, pleaded Rodriguez (CBC News 2012). Dying with dignity is on the minds of Canadian citizens. An Angus Reid study in July 26 2012 found that 80% of Canadian participants supported doctor-assisted suicide (Dying With Dignity 2012). As long as physician-assisted suicide is illegal, fellow human beings will continue to be stripped of dignity and human rights.
The debate on the legalization of physician-assisted suicide can be tied back to many important theorists and theories. Erving Goffman revealed that stigma is used to devalue social groups. The stigma associated with physician-assisted suicide is very prominent. However, Goffman also stated that stigma can completely change over time. Therefore social change is possible, but only with the right tools. One of the challenges of social change is convincing a group that change is necessary. To achieve the eradication of discrimination, policies and laws must change but most importantly, social opinion must change. Malcolm Gladwell stated that social change relies on motivated individuals in The Law of the Few and that it must be the right time in the environment for the social change to occur. Now is the right time to discuss the legalization of physician assisted suicide - it is a decision of great urgency. The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland are countries that had the courage and compassion to legally allow doctor-assisted suicide. Bringing significance to this decision to other regions of the world, such as Canada, is challenging but attainable through globalization.
The theory of organic specialization refers to a set of entities working together to create a larger functioning organism. This symbolizes what is required of you, the reader, to do in order to give terminally ill patients their freedoms and rights. Get talking, spread awareness, and contact your MPs to make this decision one of great concern. Be one of the entities that can work together to create something bigger than yourself - bigger than all of us. Social change IS possible!
HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED?
- GET TALKING - LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW
- RAISE YOUR VOICE - SPREAD AWARENESS
- CONTACT YOUR MP AND ENCOURAGE HIM/HER TO MAKE IT A TOPIC OF CONCERN