Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Assisted Suicide Genie out of Bottle

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Assisted Suicide Genie out of Bottle

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Assisted suicide genie out of bottle


An editorial from the Waterloo Region Record, published Feb. 7:

An old tale tells how a magical genie released from his bottle at first obeyed his master's bidding, but then suddenly wreaked havoc. The Supreme Court decision on Friday to allow doctor-assisted suicide in Canada brings this cautionary tale to mind.

The ruling can be welcomed, even applauded, for permitting something long advocated in this country: People who are terminally ill, suffering and mentally competent will in future be able to avail themselves of a physician's help in dying.

But the court went much further than this. In its momentous ruling, the court declared that adults of sound mind who are suffering intolerably and permanently -- and that pain could be either physical or psychological -- also have a right to a doctor-assisted death.

They do not have to be facing a terminal illness to be candidates for assisted suicide. Indeed, as far as we can tell, their condition need not even be life-threatening but only, in the court's words, "grievous and irremediable." Exactly what this means and who will be allowed to choose a doctor-facilitated death is still unclear -- and this is troubling.

In our view, the court moved us in a fair and reasonable direction but ultimately took us far beyond our comfort zone and into hazardous territory. The door is open too wide and we fear what might stagger in.

Many people have watched a loved one struggle with an excruciating, deadly illness and agonized over whether the morally right thing to do would be to allow that individual to choose a pain-free, doctor-assisted death.

The Supreme Court said prohibiting this course of action is "cruel." Today, 84 per cent of Canadians agree such an end to life should be legal. The Canadian Medical Association long opposed physician-assisted suicide but recently altered its position to acknowledge that on "rare occasions ... medical aid in dying may be appropriate."

So much has changed since 1993 when the Supreme Court -- with eight different judges on it -- took a completely different view and upheld the legal prohibition against assisted suicide. …

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