Not a war on foreign soil, but hopefully the end-game in a long struggle on our own soil will, by day’s end, be debatable no longer. Decision day.
When it is over, we will know.
For most non-medical folks, most non-scholars, most average Canadians, complexity of this issue is beyond easy comprehension – so those appointed to be wisest ones in all the land will decide whether or not, and more particularly HOW, the law of this land will change. Today.
Right to live.
Right to life.
Are those the same?
Yes, and no.
I live in a country where decisions of right to life (a.k.a. women’s right to choose, abortion, test tube babies, birth control, abortion timing, reproductive technologies – the whole ball of wax, TWBOW are as liberal as most democratic societies with citizens divided, just as they are about the death penalty … about 50-50).
Right to die.
Right to not live.
Are those the same?
Not even close.
Right to die processes – laws, living wills, personal directives, do-not-resuscitate orders, enduring power of attorney documents – seem more orderly than ever. Seems simple if it doesn’t currently apply to you, and beyond comprehension for those embroiled in hard choices for themselves or for a family member.
As I see it:
Whether or not someone wants to die sooner because of intractable suffering is as personal a decision wrestle as I can imagine anyone having the right (or lack of right) to deal with. Add to that anguish, caring professionals and family members torn between obeying someone’s wishes, obeying the conscience or obeying the law of the land. Sadly, things are not lined up well at the moment. But, that landscape of hot debate and murky law should be clearer at the end of this day.
What is the goal, and what is the criminal responsibility of one who assists? What ever your view of the legal and moral imperatives this morning, by day’s end it will be different in Canada.
Seems to me, that a mentally competent person takes their own life, we shouldn’t tinker with that.
How could we?
The issue, in simplest terms as I see it, is whether that mentally competent person who becomes physically incapable, should (or should not) have the right to get help from a physician or another person to help them end their life. As it stands today, there is no legal basis for that in this country – and no legal comfort for the person who helps because, if they do, they are a criminal this morning. That might not be so at the end of this day.
The right to not live is not, in my meaning, a description of quality and joy of life vs. not feeling so great about life – but rather the challenge of someone ill, or old, or both – someone wishing to die at their own hand after the time when their own hand can do the job. Yes, assisted suicide. TWBOW is on the line today in Canada. Politicians aren’t openly shaking in their shoes, but they are. Desperately ill and weary folks needing this legal and moral option, and their families, are standing by with shaky knees too – for a much anticipated moral judgment is about to be pronounced. Today.
Yes, today is the day Canada’s Supreme Court is scheduled to announce its ruling on assisted suicide – a likely sweeping decision that will criminalize, or decriminalize things.
Will someone in need, someone needing to accelerate their imminent and inevitable death by a rational decision – seek the help of assistance from someone to help them? Worst-case scenario folk will debate long the floodgates being opened to abuses, and those on the other side will cringe for those who must commit a crime in order to relieve suffering.
It isn’t about morals or religion or laws on the books – it all comes down to the decision of the highest court in the land, that last court in the land.
They will decide for us.
I am hopeful their decision will get the government out of the decision and put the authority where it squarely belongs, in our hands.
To ask for help.
To enable and honour rather than criminalize those who help.
column written/ published from Calgary, AB
morning walk: -14C/6F, light snow falling and moving sideways in a steady breeze, more predicted, warm wind predicted, Chinook wind predicted followed by deep-chill again by Sunday predicted – wow what a weekend!; Gusta enjoying the fluffy new snow while I navigated slippery walks, fresh, invigorating, feeling vitally relevant …