If treatment or dying with dignity by the

 

If
you found out today you only had months to live, would you want those to be the
best months of your life? What if you knew those last months would be spent
with unmanageable pain and suffering to you and the ones who have to watch you
go through this. Would you want the right to choose every path of treatment
possible? In this day and age, we can choose our gender, we can choose our
sexuality, we have the right to choose anything and everything to do with our
lives so we should be able to choose how we want to die. The legalization of
assisted suicide grants terminally ill patients the right to die with dignity
and the ability to end intolerable suffering on their own terms.

My interest in assisted suicide first sparked when I read
an 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 was
diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer. With a 6 month prognosis she and her
family together researched all treatment options and decided that between the
side effects from the treatments she could try and the fear of suffering in
hospice care longer then she should (her body was still young and healthy but
her brain was deteriorating quickly), that assisted suicide would be her way to
go with dignity. She got to leave her family with memories of her still healthy
before the disease took away any quality of life she had (CNN, 2014).  I truly believe that when bill C-14 was
passed in June of 2017 in Canada it extended our freedom of rights. We now have
the freedom to choose between suffering through treatment after treatment or
dying with dignity by the means of assisted suicide.

Somebody
with cancer can choose between chemotherapy, radiation, vitamin C and cannabis
treatments (to name a few), then what makes it any different to choose death if
given a fatal prognosis? Many people may think assisted suicide is the easy way
out, but it isn’t. There are many requirements you must meet in order to be
able to be accepted for this service. You must be of legal age (18+), you must
be mentally competent, your end of life must be in the foreseeable future, and
you 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 a
10 day reflection period before the service can be performed, this is so that
if after the 10 day wait you still want to proceed your doctor can have
confidence that your true desire is to receive this service. If at any time
somebody who is eligible and has been accepted for this service wants to
withdraw, it is an option for them right up to the last minute.

There are two different ways available to Canadians who
are looking into this service, a doctor or nurse practitioner is needed for
both ways. The first way is becoming known as ‘clinician-assisted medical
assistance in dying’, this is where the doctor or nurse directly administers a
substance that causes death, such as an injection of a drug. This service was formerly
known as ‘voluntary euthanasia’. The second way is becoming known as
‘self-administered medical assistance in dying’ this is where the doctor or
nurse 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 way
the person chooses everything is still completely up to them. They get to
decide what day, time, place and who all gets to be there with them on their
journey leaving this Earth. Some people take this time to have a celebration of
life while still living, they get to enjoy their last days instead of being in
unbearable pain or even worse being pumped full of so many pain drugs that they
are unable to be present with their loved ones who are with them.

While
it is a great thing for the people that are approved there is another side to
assisted suicide, there are still many people in Canada who are denied this
right. The main reason people are being denied is because their death is not in
the near foreseeable future. ‘I live a great life and I’m very
happy. And I do not want to die right now,’ says Julia Lamb, who has spinal
muscular atrophy, a progressively debilitating genetic disease that could force
her to suffer for years without killing her. Lamb is going to court to fight
for the removal of the ‘reasonably foreseeable’ death requirement in Canada’s
medically assisted dying law. (Lamb, CBC 2017). Another woman from
Quebec who was around age 70 and had been suffering from multiple sclerosis for
the past 20 years was denied as her death was also not in the near foreseeable
future. This woman’s brain was still as fully functioning as any healthy adults
could be but she was in such excruciating pain and degenerating at such a fast
rate that she decided the only way out of the pain and misery would be to
starve herself to death. Her reasoning was that because she could still easily
live another 10 + years she could not stand the thought of suffering for that
much longer. It took 14 days for this woman to die, so she suffered without
food and water for 2 weeks because she wasn’t on the verge of death and was
denied by our government the right to go with dignity (dyingwithdignity.ca). As of now only about 1 in 10 people are
approved for this service leaving thousands of people left to suffer. Many
people who are denied cannot walk or talk, they might need help feeding and
washing themselves, they may have fully functioning brains but no way to
express the agony they are in daily.

I understand that this service is not for everybody, as
this is a very controversial topic and is quite new to Canada but I believe
giving someone the right to decide their own fate is something we need to be
thankful for. I have read quite a few stories while researching for this essay
and the one that puts things in to perspective for me is a story about a lady
named Kathy who in the past 3 years has had 2 wives die from cancer. Kathy’s
first wife Kim was diagnosed with cancer in December of 2013, 3 years before
bill C-14 was approved. By February 2014 the cancer had spread so much that
they knew death was imminent. Kim was moved to palliative care and even though
she said she was at terms with dying she could not stand to see her wife and
daughter watch her suffer. Kathy explained Kim’s death as very traumatic as she
gasped for air, made noises, opened her eyes and had a terrified look on her
face before she died. To this day it still haunts her. Shortly after the death
of her wife,  Kathy married her best
friend Lynne. Lynne was given a fatal diagnosis in January of 2016. With bill
C-14 in the works and Lynne in palliative care already, she made the decision
she wanted help to end her life. Kathy explains Lynne’s death as peaceful and
beautiful, leaving her with peace in her heart as she watched her drift off
into eternal sleep (Kathy, Dying With Dignity). Not having to suffer until the
bitter end will give your loved ones a sense of peace knowing you went without
suffering, this can save them from years of bad feelings and guilt towards your
death.

Since legalized there have been 2000 medically assisted
deaths, which makes up only 1% of all deaths in Canada. In the first six months
there was 803 deaths accounted for under assisted suicide, in the following six
months it rose 47% to 1179. Cancer is the number on contributing factor in
assisted suicide followed by neurodegenerative disorders, circulatory and
respiratory system failures. The majority of assisted suicides are conducted on
patients 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 extend
to children but I do believe that the more this service gets utilized the more
people will realize it is not murder, it is not the easy way out, it is a way
that can end suffering for both the patient and their loved ones. I hope that
one day the laws will loosen up a bit more and allow for people who aren’t
exactly “knocking on deaths door” to be allowed to choose for
themselves if this is the path of treatment they want to choose.

In conclusion I fully support assisted suicide and am
very thankful that it has been legalized in Canada. This service allows people
live their last days or months in peace without suffering immensely. It lets
their families enjoy the person they have always known and loved, they don’t
have to watch them whittle away to almost nothing. I have seen cancer and other
diseases destroy many people and take young healthy adults and make them unable
work, to enjoy the things in life they once did because it takes over their
bodies so quickly. I have seen people’s lives become turned upside down trying
every treatment possible in the hopes that something will work for them, when
all it ends up doing is making them weaker and unable to enjoy the time that
they have left here on Earth. If assisted suicide was not legalized in Canada
there would be many people having to travel abroad to take part in the service
in a country that has legalized it. This means that they wouldn’t be able to
have all the loved ones by their side and their last days would be spent with
long days travelling; now they can be surrounded by all of their loved ones and
can do it in the comfort of their own home. 
It is a breakthrough for the Canadian medical system and it makes me
proud that I live in a country that will allow our citizens to make the
decision to die with dignity, if they so choose.

 

 

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