Assisted suicide has been long debated and to say it’s a delicate subject is an understatement.
Even with the implementation of recent laws, the debate surrounding medical assistance in dying is alive and well — a debate which has gained particular prominence in the last few years.
In February 2015, in Carter v. Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that laws would need to change in order to satisfy the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (1)
Within a year and a half, the government created and passed a new law allowing Canadian adults to request medical assistance in dying (MAID). (2)
However, this isn’t available to just anyone. There are criteria for eligibility.
Who’s eligible for medical assistance in dying?
You must meet all of the following criteria: (3)
- Be eligible for health services funded by the federal government or a province or territory
- Be at least 18-years-old and mentally competent
- Have a grievous and irremediable medical condition
- Make a voluntary request for MAID that isn’t the result of external pressure or influence
- Give informed consent to receive MAID
There are many details and further clarifications and criteria. If you’d like to go deeper, visit the Government of Canada’s page about medical assistance in dying.
This is what led Susie Adelson to throw her grandmother, Sonia Goodman, “an assisted suicide party.”
One woman’s take on medically-assisted death
In a heartfelt article for Toronto Life, Adelson shares a story of how her grandmother, aka “Yaya,” came to opt for medical assistance in dying.
Goodman was 88-years-old and had suffered some serious falls that, after surgeries and procedures, negatively impacted her body — both physically and mentally.
One day, Goodman went to Sunnybrook hospital suffering from sepsis and excruciating pain. It was during this visit to the ER that she told doctors she wished to have medical assistance in dying.
They offered options such as painkillers, antibiotics, and palliative care. But, as a strong-willed individual, she refused.
Goodman went through many assessments and, eventually, her doctors David Juurlink and Deborah Selby believed she met the eligibility criteria.
“The date was set: November 30,” writes Adelson. “I was sad to lose my grandmother, and with her one of my last links to my mom, but my family and I knew not to argue. She was extremely strong-willed.”
With just 10 days left, she asked Adelson to invite a dozen close friends and family members to join her for a “deathbed party” — an opportunity to “present herself to the world one last time.”
Some of Sonia Goodman’s last words
After expressing her gratitude for the people in her presence, she said:
“Leading up today, I thought this gathering was all about me. But now I understand that it’s bigger than me. It’s also the last time I will be here for each of you. Death truly is a shared experience.”
When it was time for the doctors to assist Goodman, they asked her a series of questions to make sure this was something she still wanted to do.
And with her permission, they administered:
- Medication to induce a deep, pain-free sleep
- One to relax her muscles
- One to stop her heart
Understandably, some will read this and agree with a Goodman-style send-off while others will disagree with the idea of medical assistance in dying altogether.
Should medical assistance in dying (or euthanasia) be legal?
The public remains split on this issue. But, it has generally sparked two narratives which are worth exploring.
Below, we’ve outlined ten of the most common pros and cons to the question above. (4)
2. Legalization: medical perspectives
3. Legalization: lawmakers’ views
4. Vulnerable groups
5. Hippocratic oath
6. Legal right
7. Slippery slope
8. Palliative care
9. Physician obligation
10. Financial motivation
Remember, in the words of French philosopher, Joseph Joubert: “It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.”
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