Supreme Court Of Canada and Dying With Dignity

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In a landmark decision this past Friday, The Supreme Court of Canada says a law that makes it illegal for anyone to help people end their own lives should be amended to allow doctors to help in specific situations. The court also found an individual’s response to “a grievous and irremediable medical condition” is a matter critical to their dignity and autonomy. The law already allows palliative sedation, refusing artificial nutrition and hydration and refusing life-sustaining medical equipment. “And, by leaving people … to endure intolerable suffering, it impinges on their security of the person,” the court wrote.

The case was brought by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association on behalf of two women, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, both of whom have died since the legal battle began. Both women had degenerative diseases and wanted the right to have a doctor help them die.

A lawyer on behalf of Carter and Taylor argued that they were being discriminated against because their physical disabilities didn’t allow them to kill themselves the way able-bodied people could.

Carter went to Switzerland with her daughter, Lee, to die. Taylor died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2012. Source http://www.cbc.ca

Video From Global News:

Doctors will in no way be forced into having to make the decision to help a patient end their life. The Supreme court of Canada has given both the Provincial and Federal Governments one year to dictate legislation on point, and the ban will stay in place until this is done.

Over the years public opinion has changed on Dying with Dignity and End of Life choices, with the majority of Canadians supporting this choice. As a mental health advocate who lives with a mood disorder that at times has brought me to the brink of suicide, this is different.

We’re talking about people living with painful terminal, degenerative illnesses with no chance of recovery, destined to die a horribly painful death. Oftentimes deteriorating to the point of no longer recognizing themselves or their loved ones. As a nursing aide, I’ve seen this first hand. I’ve watched as a family member had a doctor override a living will and have a feeding tube placed into his daughter who was ravaged by MS. Once a brilliant biologist now bedridden, muscles atrophied to the point where I had to turn her every 2 hours so as not to cause bed sores. She could no longer speak, feed herself, or even tell me if her nose itched. She spent painful and humiliating hours, having someone not much younger than she was, lovingly bathe and change her incontinence pads.

I watched another beautiful soul lose herself to Huntington’s Disease. This woman was one of the sweetest women I knew. Within a year she had turned violent, was in pain, could no longer walk, lost all bodily functions, and begged to die, when she could find her voice. Her family stopped coming to see her because it was too hard on them. We became her family.

I have dozens of more stories I could tell you, but I would rather you read some from the people who made this choice for themselves. Please look Gillian’s site to give you a small glimpse into a powerful choice.

Well done, Canada. I support this, as do many others. People of sound mind should have the choice to die with dignity. If you can’t see the difference between that and still being an advocate against suicide and for mental illness and mental wellness, I ask you to please open your mind. The two are not the same.

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