November 15, 2011

Legalized suicide coming to Canada?

CANADA/HEALTH - Assisted suicide and euthanasia should be legal in Canada, concludes an expert panel in a report released today in Ottawa, adding fuel to the growing demands to legalize suicide in Canada.

The report was commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada, and the panel was made up of six Canadian and international experts in bioethics, clinical medicine, health law and policy, and philosophy.

Whether the report will spark a new, national debate on end-of-life care is the question.

The thing however is that the vast majority of people either prefer to wait for death or simply don't care enough to change the status quo. After all as long as its not them dying slowly and in horrible pain, why should the average person care?

The average person goes through high school, college or university, works for decades in some boring job, gets a mortgage, buys a house with a mortgage, car loans, credit cards, 2.2 children, and eventually dies in their 70s or thereabouts.

Thus the vast majority of people aren't exactly lining up for assisted suicide for people dying slowly in horrible pain. A torturous death, like being beaten to death with a reed switch, a rod of thumb's width or the lash.

What people would wish to do when dying a torturous death is really up to the person suffering such torment. Who amongst us can claim to have suffered such pain, without any hope of relief in sight?

Soldiers perhaps, people with injuries so dire they question their existence. Its not like accountants, Toronto mortgage brokers, real estate salesmen, production planning managers or inventory management assistants are likely to have occupational hazards that might lead to horrible painful deaths.

No, the Grim Reaper's icy grip is random and slow sometimes. It can strike any, but does so rarely. Usually death is reasonably quick, like a tax man stealing money from your pay-cheque. Its happened before you even realize it.

The Royal Society of Canada report also makes a number of recommendations related to end-of-life care, but the most important thing in the report is the proposal that the Criminal Code of Canada be amended to permit euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The panel should be decriminalized for "competent individuals who make a free and informed decision that their life is no longer worth living."

The panel calls for a "permissive yet carefully regulated and monitored system" for assisted death, and says it carefully considered Canadian values, international evidence, and legal and ethical arguments to reach that conclusion.

"The evidence does not support claims that decriminalizing voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide poses a threat to vulnerable people, or that decriminalization will lead us down a slippery slope from assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia to non-voluntary or involuntary euthanasia," the report says. "The evidence does not support claims that decriminalization will have a corrosive effect on access to or the development of palliative care."

The report was released at a press conference a day after a major legal challenge in British Columbia on assisted suicide began in the province's Supreme Court.

So there is a fire in the courts, and now there is extra fuel.

If the court cases eventually reach the Supreme Court of Canada it can overturn the Criminal Code of Canada if the Supreme Court makes a ruling in favour of euthanasia.

If euthanasia was allowed by the Supreme Court of Canada, the Canadian parliament would have no choice but to debate the merits of letting people make their own decision.

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