Ifyou found out today you only had months to live, would you want those to be thebest months of your life? What if you knew those last months would be spentwith unmanageable pain and suffering to you and the ones who have to watch yougo through this. Would you want the right to choose every path of treatmentpossible? In this day and age, we can choose our gender, we can choose oursexuality, we have the right to choose anything and everything to do with ourlives so we should be able to choose how we want to die.
The legalization ofassisted suicide grants terminally ill patients the right to die with dignityand the ability to end intolerable suffering on their own terms.My interest in assisted suicide first sparked when I readan article on Brittany Maynard back in 2014, she was around the same age as me.Brittany was a normal healthy 29 year old woman from California who wasdiagnosed with aggressive brain cancer. With a 6 month prognosis she and herfamily together researched all treatment options and decided that between theside effects from the treatments she could try and the fear of suffering inhospice care longer then she should (her body was still young and healthy buther brain was deteriorating quickly), that assisted suicide would be her way togo with dignity. She got to leave her family with memories of her still healthybefore the disease took away any quality of life she had (CNN, 2014). I truly believe that when bill C-14 waspassed in June of 2017 in Canada it extended our freedom of rights. We now havethe freedom to choose between suffering through treatment after treatment ordying with dignity by the means of assisted suicide.
Somebodywith cancer can choose between chemotherapy, radiation, vitamin C and cannabistreatments (to name a few), then what makes it any different to choose death ifgiven a fatal prognosis? Many people may think assisted suicide is the easy wayout, but it isn’t. There are many requirements you must meet in order to beable to be accepted for this service. You must be of legal age (18+), you mustbe mentally competent, your end of life must be in the foreseeable future, andyou must be in a state of decline of that cannot be reversed (www.Canada.ca).Once you have applied and have been accepted there is a10 day reflection period before the service can be performed, this is so thatif after the 10 day wait you still want to proceed your doctor can haveconfidence that your true desire is to receive this service. If at any timesomebody who is eligible and has been accepted for this service wants towithdraw, it is an option for them right up to the last minute. There are two different ways available to Canadians whoare looking into this service, a doctor or nurse practitioner is needed forboth ways.
The first way is becoming known as ‘clinician-assisted medicalassistance in dying’, this is where the doctor or nurse directly administers asubstance that causes death, such as an injection of a drug. This service was formerlyknown as ‘voluntary euthanasia’. The second way is becoming known as’self-administered medical assistance in dying’ this is where the doctor ornurse provides or prescribes a drug that the eligible person takes themselves,in order to bring about their own death. This service was formerly known as’medically assisted suicide or assisted suicide’ (www.Canada.ca).
Whichever waythe person chooses everything is still completely up to them. They get todecide what day, time, place and who all gets to be there with them on theirjourney leaving this Earth. Some people take this time to have a celebration oflife while still living, they get to enjoy their last days instead of being inunbearable pain or even worse being pumped full of so many pain drugs that theyare unable to be present with their loved ones who are with them.Whileit is a great thing for the people that are approved there is another side toassisted suicide, there are still many people in Canada who are denied thisright. The main reason people are being denied is because their death is not inthe near foreseeable future. ‘I live a great life and I’m veryhappy. And I do not want to die right now,’ says Julia Lamb, who has spinalmuscular atrophy, a progressively debilitating genetic disease that could forceher to suffer for years without killing her. Lamb is going to court to fightfor the removal of the ‘reasonably foreseeable’ death requirement in Canada’smedically assisted dying law.
(Lamb, CBC 2017). Another woman fromQuebec who was around age 70 and had been suffering from multiple sclerosis forthe past 20 years was denied as her death was also not in the near foreseeablefuture. This woman’s brain was still as fully functioning as any healthy adultscould be but she was in such excruciating pain and degenerating at such a fastrate that she decided the only way out of the pain and misery would be tostarve herself to death. Her reasoning was that because she could still easilylive another 10 + years she could not stand the thought of suffering for thatmuch longer. It took 14 days for this woman to die, so she suffered withoutfood and water for 2 weeks because she wasn’t on the verge of death and wasdenied by our government the right to go with dignity (dyingwithdignity.
ca). As of now only about 1 in 10 people areapproved for this service leaving thousands of people left to suffer. Manypeople who are denied cannot walk or talk, they might need help feeding andwashing themselves, they may have fully functioning brains but no way toexpress the agony they are in daily.I understand that this service is not for everybody, asthis is a very controversial topic and is quite new to Canada but I believegiving someone the right to decide their own fate is something we need to bethankful for. I have read quite a few stories while researching for this essayand the one that puts things in to perspective for me is a story about a ladynamed Kathy who in the past 3 years has had 2 wives die from cancer. Kathy’sfirst wife Kim was diagnosed with cancer in December of 2013, 3 years beforebill C-14 was approved. By February 2014 the cancer had spread so much thatthey knew death was imminent.
Kim was moved to palliative care and even thoughshe said she was at terms with dying she could not stand to see her wife anddaughter watch her suffer. Kathy explained Kim’s death as very traumatic as shegasped for air, made noises, opened her eyes and had a terrified look on herface before she died. To this day it still haunts her. Shortly after the deathof her wife, Kathy married her bestfriend Lynne. Lynne was given a fatal diagnosis in January of 2016. With billC-14 in the works and Lynne in palliative care already, she made the decisionshe wanted help to end her life. Kathy explains Lynne’s death as peaceful andbeautiful, leaving her with peace in her heart as she watched her drift offinto eternal sleep (Kathy, Dying With Dignity).
Not having to suffer until thebitter end will give your loved ones a sense of peace knowing you went withoutsuffering, this can save them from years of bad feelings and guilt towards yourdeath. Since legalized there have been 2000 medically assisteddeaths, which makes up only 1% of all deaths in Canada. In the first six monthsthere was 803 deaths accounted for under assisted suicide, in the following sixmonths it rose 47% to 1179. Cancer is the number on contributing factor inassisted suicide followed by neurodegenerative disorders, circulatory andrespiratory system failures. The majority of assisted suicides are conducted onpatients from age 18 – 91 with the average ages being between 56-85(globalnews.ca). Not a lot has been mentioned on if this law will ever extendto children but I do believe that the more this service gets utilized the morepeople will realize it is not murder, it is not the easy way out, it is a waythat can end suffering for both the patient and their loved ones. I hope thatone day the laws will loosen up a bit more and allow for people who aren’texactly “knocking on deaths door” to be allowed to choose forthemselves if this is the path of treatment they want to choose.
In conclusion I fully support assisted suicide and amvery thankful that it has been legalized in Canada. This service allows peoplelive their last days or months in peace without suffering immensely. It letstheir families enjoy the person they have always known and loved, they don’thave to watch them whittle away to almost nothing. I have seen cancer and otherdiseases destroy many people and take young healthy adults and make them unablework, to enjoy the things in life they once did because it takes over theirbodies so quickly. I have seen people’s lives become turned upside down tryingevery treatment possible in the hopes that something will work for them, whenall it ends up doing is making them weaker and unable to enjoy the time thatthey have left here on Earth. If assisted suicide was not legalized in Canadathere would be many people having to travel abroad to take part in the servicein a country that has legalized it. This means that they wouldn’t be able tohave all the loved ones by their side and their last days would be spent withlong days travelling; now they can be surrounded by all of their loved ones andcan do it in the comfort of their own home.
It is a breakthrough for the Canadian medical system and it makes meproud that I live in a country that will allow our citizens to make thedecision to die with dignity, if they so choose.