Euthanasia: it literally means “good death”

OLIVIA ROBINSON
The Cadre (University of Prince Edward Island)

Are you cool enough to tell this badass lady she can’t decide when her time has come? Didn’t think so.

CUP (Charlottetown) — Physician-assisted suicide, a form of euthanasia in which a doctor helps a patient end his or her life at the patient’s request, is legal in many parts of the world, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and certain American states such as Oregon and Washington. So why is it taboo in Canada?

Fun fact: euthanasia comes from the Greek term for “good death.” I believe that PAS should be legal in Canada. I admit that I am young and that I have very little experience with people dying but I do have experience with animal deaths.

Many people think of euthanizing animals as a way to end their suffering. When I was in grade 12, I got into a rather heated debate with my history teacher over this very issue. I explained that if my horse had a terminal illness or injury, I would immediately have him put down to end his suffering. I would want the same done for me.

If I knew I was dying, I would rather choose the time of my death than suffer for a seemingly endless period of time — a suffering that would, without doubt, put unnecessary stress on my loved ones as well as on me.

Some people are quick to claim that PAS goes against nature, but then what gives us the right to choose when animals die? It frustrates me that humans have developed such a superiority complex that we believe that it is fine for us to choose when to end the suffering of animals, but human euthanasia is going against nature.

And while we are obviously more evolved than the animal species we once were, one cannot question that we are, in fact, related.

On the other side of things, several of the points made by University of Prince Edward Island history professor Ian Dowbiggin in a recent presentation on why PAS should not be legal in Canada are quite valid.

First, Dowbiggin noted the difficulty of distinguishing between a patient who has chosen PAS and one who was coerced or pressured by a physician. He then brought up that some people believe that, if PAS were legal, it could be used as a means to rid the population of individuals seen as creating a drain on society. This would likely include elderly and disabled people, who cannot contribute to the work force in the same way that young, able-bodied people can.

I believe these concerns are difficult at best to back up. First of all, the vast majority of people are kind–hearted. If PAS were made legal, I do not believe that it would suddenly be employed as an excuse to rid the world of the sick, infirm or elderly.

I see little likelihood that legalized PAS would be used as justification for killing people. After all, there is already a word associated with that: murder. Unjustified killings happen daily across the globe. Legalizing or preventing the legalization of PAS would not affect this.

I realize that PAS is a sensitive issue. I also recognize the issue of the slippery slope and how society is wary of making PAS legal because there is always the possibility that it could end up going too far. However, I view PAS as a humane option for suffering people who want to end their lives. It is simply not fair for people to be forced to continue to suffer a painful, debilitating terminal illness such as cancer or Lou Gehrig’s disease when there is a solution. I understand that medical miracles can happen, but I think that there are ways to work those cases in to the law and that not everyone wants to wait for years in the hope that they can be the guinea pig for a new treatment.

There will always be exceptions and the law cannot cover every situation perfectly, but I feel that people should still have a choice. Personally, I would prefer to be euthanized peacefully than to die painfully, and I certainly do not doubt that a lot of other people share this opinion.

After all, if people can’t find a way to die peacefully, there are less favourable ways to end a life.


Photo: Sean Wilkin/The Cadre