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Euthanasia Debate in Canada: Facts, Forms and Opinion

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Euthanasia, Rose, Death

In this growing and complex society there are many circumstances and reasons for an individual to want to end their own life. Whether that person feels they have reached the conclusion of their life or are in intensive care and no longer wish to be kept alive. With our ever increasing population and aging baby boomers the debate over legal assisted suicide is a major national and international issue on the horizon.

Arguments for
Relief from pain or bad quality of life- Allow people exit peacefully when they feel their life has become unbearable.
Frees up money for other people- using limited health care funds to prolong the lives of those who do not want it is a misuse of money and morally should be used for those more in need.
Freedom of choice, dignity and autonomy- even at the end of life a person remains a person and their rights should in no way be diminished. Disallowing an individual to choose a dignified and timely death and therefore prolong suffering is inhumane and immoral.

Arguments against
Could become a device to alleviate healthcare costs- There is the danger that, having the opportunity to end patients lives, physicians would encourage euthanasia in aim of reduced patient costs
Be used non voluntarily. The slippery slope- The fear that once euthanasia is legalized it will devalue human life and in turn lead to immoral uses, including non consensual euthanasia
Moral objection to killing- Euthanasia is murder and immoral
Possibility of wrong diagnosis, new cure or sudden remission- there is always the possibility of a sudden turn of events and the patient should never give up.

What's legal in Canada
There are many 'types' of euthanasia but no clear consensus on the exact definition of or between them. There is however a definable divide in euthanasia practices in Canada and fall into these two sides; Passive and Active Euthanasia.

Passive euthanasia is the withholding of life sustaining treatment at the competent request of the patient. Known best as 'pulling the plug', passive euthanasia is legal and universally practiced in Canada. Passive euthanasia means that, for example, after a stroke or heart attack an elderly person who is on a respirator or other life support equipment can request that the respirator be turned off or other treatment be withheld. This can also apply to a person of any age who is suffering from an incurable, terminal or insufferable illness. In a 1992 superior court case Nancy B. A quadriplegic succeeded in getting a ruling to disconnect her from the respirator she was living on. She was 25 years old.

Indirect euthanasia, an extension of passive euthanasia, is the administration of the necessary amount of pain killers to a suffering and dying patient regardless of the fact that they may cause death. Withholding painkillers, and therefore causing suffering, simply to prolong the life of a dying patient is considered immoral and is against Canadian law. In special wards and hospices for the dying, palliative care (the aim to ease suffering as opposed to cure) is the goal, and physicians will not hesitate to give the necessary amount of pain relief. Indirect euthanasia is legal and widely practiced in Canada.

Active euthanasia, however, is not legal. This form is defined as actively killing someone painlessly for humane reasons (especially someone suffering from an incurable illness) at their request. This means that currently a person wishing to end their life cannot be granted request for a lethal injection (or other) by a doctor or other physician.


Personally, I'm in agreement with euthanasia; I believe that a person who is suffering and wishes to end their life should be able to do so in a dignified and timely manner. Euthanasia is legalized and practiced in the state of Oregon and there are many people who say that there is no slippery slope, and that the actual results have been quite the opposite from the feared devaluing of human life. The results have been that hospitals have become more carrying and gentle places, actively recognizing an individual's autonomy and dignity at the end of their life. I understand the concerns of those who wish to protect our lives from becoming vulnerable or devalued, but I do not agree that their fears are enough to justify the continued absence of a peaceful and dignified way to opt out of the painful and unbearable life.

The great euthanasia debate has been taking place for many years in many countries, and they will continue to do so for many years to come. With our aging population we will likely find this debate becoming more prominent and in more immediate discussion. Let us hope that we will debate this issue fairly and with compassion and foresight. Let our country make the choice that will bring its people and the rest of the world safety, dignity and peace.



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