A win for compassion

In my view of humanism, compassion and a desire to minimize harm serve as human moral foundations.

It is for this reason, I consider Gloria Taylor and the BC Civil Liberties Association’s victory in the BC Supreme Court to be a profoundly good thing. The ruling strikes down a ban on doctor-assisted dying.

The case rested on the fact that suicide has been legal in Canada since 1972, so banning assisted suicide removes a right from those with disabilities. Furthermore, since the Sue Rodriguez case in the early 1990s, numerous jurisdictions have passed and studied assisted suicide laws, including the Netherlands, Belgium, and Oregon. The evidence from these test cases show that the worst fears are not realized and there is no slippery slope to involuntary euthanasia and systemic elder abuse.

In striking down the prohibition, the court is providing the federal government with a year to draft new legislation – or to appeal the ruling – while Taylor can seek to end her life in peace when she is ready.

Polls are showing that a majority of Canadians are supportive of increasing our end of life options, while the main opponents include religious conservatives and parliamentarians who would rather not touch the issue. Catholics and Christians continue to argue that life is sacred, yet what value does a life have if it lacks freedom and is forced to live in agony and suffering?

Comments on: "A win for compassion" (1)

  1. Betty Maryon said:

    re the court battle for self-chosen-death.

    The case for old people to choose death.

    I think justice is denied old people in one respect. It is that when they reach a point where their declining health, death of siblings and friends, and very limited physical abilities leave them with a very empty existence, (it is NOT living), they are actively prevented from choosing a peaceful end.

    I am almost 86 years old.
    I am lucky to live in a “Retirement Residence” in which accommodation, meals and staff are all very good indeed.
    I am in the best situation available to me, but

    I can no longer do almost all the things which gave me most pleasure – walking, gardening, sewing, knitting etc, and cannot manage to keep house, shop and cook for myself.
    Increasing hearing loss, even with a hearing-aid, makes conversation in more than a one-on-one situation very difficult, so I tend to avoid it.
    I cannot care for animals, so was forced to euthanize much loved pets.
    I feel I can no longer drive safely, so have given up my car and now have no ability to go to the theatre, music concerts, or anywhere, whenever I wish.

    Life is a round of putting in time between meals with others, some of whom are in various stages of dementia so conversation is a bit limited and on occasion tries my patience severely.

    We all know we are here in this residence until we die, and some of us wish that would happen sooner than later.

    There is already a judgment in B.C. to legalize the right to choose physician-assisted-death for those in a severely deteriorating physical condition – eg. ALS – it is being appealed, but I think it has to be only a matter of time before it succeeds.

    I wish that the same right be accorded to the old.
    I do not want to live through a long, slow decline, but would like a quick, clean end, at a time of my own choosing.

    I do not accept the allegation that it would be “elder abuse”. I notice that most of the groups who make this assertion are made up of much younger people. Believe me, they have absolutely no conception of what it feels like to be old, losing control of life, and lonely. Organized “activities” and well-meaning volunteer visitors do NOT take the place of dead siblings and old friends.
    I consider it “elder abuse” that I am deprived of this right to choose.

    The option of self-chosen-death is available in Switzerland and some other jurisdictions.

    There are rigorous safeguards against abuse, and in Switzerland and Netherlands, they have found that since the law came into effect, the number of self-chosen-deaths has diminished – people take comfort from the fact that it is available if they feel it necessary.

    At present, if you are wealthy enough, you can go to Switzerland and avail yourself of this privilege. Why should only the wealthy have this option?

    I resent the fact that after a lifetime as a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen, and contributing many volunteer hours to help the community, I can only have this option by leaving my country, and then only if I have enough money to do so.

    There are laws here where there are restrictions on people under the age of 16,17,18. Why not a law restricted to people over the age of 75?

    It is only the “right to choose” that we are asking for.

    Is it beyond the competence of Canadian lawmakers to draft similar legislation to that in Switzerland?

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