Doctor assisted suicide

Did you know that doctor assisted suicide is in fact legal in Canada?  Oh, they don’t call it that, and any palliative care doctor would say that doctor assisted suicide is illegal.  Well, it is illegal for a doctor to give a terminally ill patient an overdose in order to hasten death.  However, something called deep sedation is perfectly legal to provide to the terminally ill, both in the cases of untreatable severe physical pain and for existential distress.  What most of the definitions don’t bother to mention is when the patient is under deep sedation, she can neither eat nor drink, and essentially dies of thirst.  I have no real problem with this for people for whom death is iminent and who are in untreatable physical pain:  However, I have a huge problem when it is administered for “existential distress”.  By definition, anybody who is dieing is probably in “existential distress”.  We should be helping people to deal with it, not providing a method for suicide.  I have a relative who is in palliative care who has asked for deep sedation, for “existential distress”, and I seem to be the only person involved who thinks that this is immoral.  Even her priest agrees with her.  I even had a call from the social worker, who under the pretense of trying to find out how I feel about this, argued with me about calling it suicide, and tried to preassure me into supporting the decision. 

    I’m shocked that this is legal;  I’m shocked that there are people in the world who think it is moral to sedate someone into unconsciousness and then let them die of thirst;  the whole thing is just saddening beyond belief. 

Comments on: "Doctor assisted suicide" (2)

  1. I agree. I think any form of “treatment” that removes or makes impossible the provision of nourishment and/or hydration is both grossly immoral and extraordinarily cruel. Nourishment and hydration are not treatment. They are forms of sustenance essential for life, and thus human beings have no right to withhold them from any person. Stopping genuine forms of treatment (anything from blood transfusions to heart monitoring to IV medications, etc.) are another story, and I certainly have no problem with removing those when a person is truly terminal.

    As for the provision of deep sedation for those in “existential distress,” that also strikes me as an amazing thing for a society that claims to have compassion for the ill to do. I don’t know the legal definition of the term, but I suspect a common sense definition would be “depression.” Killing people because they are depressed is just horrible. And if it’s supposed to mean something like, “depressed because one has a terminal illness,” again I think the truly compassionate thing to do is to treat the depression and enable a person to enjoy as much as possible his or her remaining days on earth.

    The social worker you mentioned deserves professional sanction, if not loss of license, for such unprofessional behavior.

    You’ve mentioned to me before about your relative. I’ll be praying for her, and for you, and for all those who are involved in the decisions concerning her care. May God be merciful, and His guidance clear for all of you.

  2. mrsfalstaff said:

    Unfortunately, the social worker was too subtle for me to go after her; she just said that “your [relative] needs your support”. Well, she has my support – I was the one who drove halfway across the city every day to make sure she had good coffee in the morning, my husband took a lot of vacation time so that I could spend time with her – so much, in fact, that she made me go home a couple of times!

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