You’ve heard it all: assisted suicide, euthanasia, palliative and end-of-life care. But what do they all mean and why are they tied up in litigation?

First, a quick refresher:

  • Physician-assisted suicide: A patient kills himself with barbiturates provided by a doctor.
  • Active euthanasia: Causing the death of a person through a direct action.
  • Passive euthanasia: Involves turning off respirators, halting medications or administering large doses of morphine.
  • Palliative or end-of-life care: Keeps patients comfortable in times of serious or terminal illness.

Meanwhile in Québec…

Québec’s Bill 52, which proposes “medical aid in dying”, has been put on hold. The Bill is littered with euphemisms like “end-of-life” and “palliative sedation“, when really it allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to seriously ill Quebecers (better known as physician-assisted suicide).

The patient must consent in writing and 2 doctors must confirm the patient’s condition qualifies for lethal injection of which the patient must self-administer.

However, euthanasia and ‘mercy killing’ are illegal, according to the Supreme Court, as it contradicts Canada’s Criminal Code. Consequently, the Federal government has until February 2016 to modify the legislation and decriminalize assisted death.

Some argue the push towards suicide is because of a lack of good palliative care. Others argue a person has the right to end their own life if they so choose.

Before you formulate your opinion, here are some things to consider:

  • In legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, will we lose quality palliative care? If yes, will more people turn to death?
  • How can we protect vulnerable people and ensure only those who genuinely want to die, die?
  • Does this make the death of a loved one easier or harder on the family?
  • Apart from physicians, what will the roles and responsibilities of other health care providers be? Will nurses and pharmacists be involved?

My personal opinion: I think the Federal government will decriminalize the stipulations in Bill 52 and that it will act as a model for the rest of Canada. However, we must protect those who are vulnerable and continue to invest in supreme end-of-life care.

For more: 

There’s a tear-jerking documentary on Netflix called “How to Die in Oregon”. Here‘s the official trailer.

Quebec to pass bill on physician-assisted suicide

“Euthanasia kits” provided to Quebec doctors

Image source