Euthanasia Essay Research Paper Under the Canadian

Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper Under the Canadian Criminal Code, section 241(b) makes the aiding or abetting a person to commit suicide an offense. Under this provision of the code, an argument can

Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper

Under the Canadian Criminal Code, section 241(b) makes the aiding or abetting a

person to commit suicide an offense. Under this provision of the code, an argument can

be made that medical doctors who follow a patients ?do not resuscitate?(DNR) order are

assisting the person in ending their life. However this is not the case, a person in this

instance is considered ?to be master of his/her own body, and he/she may, if he/she be of

sound mind, expressly prohibit the performance of life-saving surgery, or other medical

treatment.?1 A person who is pronounced to be brain dead, can be taken off a respirator if

the patients family gives those specific instructions to the doctor, consequently killing the

family member, yet the family member is never charged and convicted. These situations

give an example of a person of sound mind deciding to essentially end their life, or the

life of someone else by refusing to allow medical treatment, and the doctor who is in a

position to treat the person does not, is in fact assisting the person to die. Why then is it

illegal for a person with a terminally ill disease to request the assistance of a physician to

end their life when they choose. In the 1990?s euthanasia has fallen into three basic

categories. The first is withholding or withdrawing treatment,(the case of the DNR order

and the brain dead patient and the removal of the respirator) the second is mercy killing/

assisted suicide, and the third is physician assisted suicide. Mercy killing is when a

suffering individual who is unable to request and perform the act of suicide, it is my

opinion that this form of assisted suicide is illegal for the sole reason that consent cannot

be given, and therefore this act should face punishment under the laws of a state. A

recent example of this is the Robert Latimer case. The Saskatchewan farmer had a twelve

year old daughter named Tracy. She was unable to walk, talk or feed herself and weighed

less than forty pounds. She functioned at the level of a three month old and had

undergone major surgery on her back, hips and legs. Her parents could not bear seeing

her go through any more surgery. It was argued that Latimer killed his daughter after he

could not see any other way of ending her suffering. This in my opinion should not be

allowed because it was not clear that consent was given. However a competent

terminally ill patient who requests a physician to assist them in the event that they cannot

physically or mentally perform the act of suicide themselves is in my opinion not a crime

and should not be punished.

The topic of euthanasia has been debated for years in the public and in the court

systems of the world. A well known case in Canadian history is Rogriguez v. British

Columbia, the appellant was terminally ill, suffering from a progressive disease of the

motor neurons. There is no cure for the disease and the average duration of life is about

three years. Evidence indicated that the appellant would become bedridden and unable to

speak or to care for herself. The disease does not usually affect the mind of the patient.

Rogriguez sought a declaration to the effect that she was entitled to have assistance in

committing suicide when her condition becomes no longer bearable. By that time she

would be unable to commit suicide without the assistance of another person.

The question of euthanasia is a question of choice and empowering people to

have control over their own bodies. A terminally ill person in my opinion has the right to

request the assistance of a physician to assist them in the act of ending their own life. The

physician and only physicians should be given the right to assist the terminally ill patient

in committing suicide. A concern of one of the judges in the Rodriguez case was that

anyone given an exception to the rule, may lead to an abuse of the power, and

consequently create an inequality. That is why the power to assist a person in ending their

life must be given solely to physicians who deal with life and death on a daily basis. A

terminally ill person can live with pain and suffering for years, which is unnecessary if

the person wishes to end their life. Assisted suicide allows terminally ill people to die

with dignity.

There should be a recurring theme apparent this far, and that is that assisted

suicide is only an option for terminally ill patients who are suffering from physical pain

or the loss of mental capacity. It can not be used in any other case. A person who breaks

their leg and must endure the pain of having it reset, and the months of physical therapy

is not a candidate for assisted suicide even though he/she may endure prolonged pain,

simply for the reason that the person is not terminally ill and they can recover.

Depression is a cause of attempted suicide, however depressed people would not be

allowed to request the assistance of a physician for the reason of assisting them in ending

their lives because depression is a treatable disease. It is possible to go on and on about

why people do not qualify for the right to physician assisted suicide, but to be eligible a

person must be terminally ill, and face suffering from physical pain or the loss of mental


A terminally ill patient must have clearly made a contemplated choice, prior to

the of loss of mental capacity. Those who are against assisted suicide claim that it is

difficult and sometimes not possible to determine if a person with diminished capacity

has given consent. That is why it is important for a person who is diagnosed with a

terminally ill disease to express their wishes in the form of a living will, as well as

consult family members and a licensed physician. Also there should be reasonable

medical procedures taken to slow the effects of the disease, the patient should not give up

as soon as they are diagnosed. Life is precious and is worth a fight. It is when the fight is

clearly hopeless and the agony, physical and mental, is unbearable that a final exit is an


Physical and mental pain should be taken into consideration when the debate of

assisted suicide is undertaken. Why should terminally ill people be forced to live through

any number of years months or days when the inevitable outcome is death. Not all pain

can be eased by the use of strong drugs. ?Ventilators cause so much discomfort that many

patients need drugs to keep from gagging or pulling the tubes out. Doctors often are

unable to ameliorate the pain and suffering caused by illness such as AIDS and cancer.

Ceaseless pain can be very frightening.?2 Terminally ill patients should be given the

choice to end their life prematurely rather than face one that is endured with prolonged

pain or diminished mental capacity. Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and

Freedoms has granted the constitutional right to life, liberty and security of the person.

According to the Rodriguez case dying is an integral part of living and is entitled to

constitutional protection under section 7. The right to choose death is open to patients

who are not physically handicapped and there is no reason for denying that choice to

those that are.

The final arguement to be made for the legalization of assisted suicide in the

circumstances outlined earlier is the right to die with dignity. This would not only benefit

the terminally ill, but the family and friends of the dying person as well. It would be

better for the family of the terminally ill person to be albe to say good-bye while it can

still be heard and acknowledged. That would be much easier than to watch the person

you once knew deteriorate to an unrecognizable state that is unbearable. It would be

better to let a loved one choose their time to pass and be surrounded by family and

friends rather than die alone in an unfamiliar place with no one around unable to

communicate in even the simplest of ways.

The debate over euthanasia has no clear answer. It was not my intention to

provide a simple set of criteria for doctors to follow in order to see if someone qaulifies

for the right to be assisted in the ending of their life. Each and every case is different and

should be examined carefully, and if assisted suicide is the choice of a terminally ill

person I believe they should have the right to make that choice. If the person wishes to

die with dignity or to avoid prolonged pain the decision should be there?s to make.