Canadians dying to have a say

Karen Robinet

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Apparently the federal government were somewhat overwhelmed by response to a survey recently released in regard to medical aid in dying.

After only a week-and-a-half, almost 230,000 Canadians had taken the survey, making it far and away the largest number of responses the Department of Justice has ever seen on any public consultation, including surveys on cannabis and prostitution.

As it happens, the public were far less inclined to weigh in on those two hot-button subjects, with only about 30,000 respondents chiming in on those surveys.

While it initially may have seemed that the tight two-week timeline on the survey – it closed on Monday – might have been problematic, it’s likely just as well in hindsight given the sheer number of people responding.

Personally, I don’t think anybody should be surprised by this response, and as soon as I heard about the survey, I did it.

I understand that this is an incredibly sensitive and potentially divisive subject, and it’s crucial that Canada – and indeed all countries – have legislation in place that provides a structure that both empowers and protects people when they are at their most vulnerable.

If I had to guess, I’d say the majority of those who completed the survey were Baby Boomers.

Born between the years of 1946 and 1964, many Boomers have no doubt already dealt with the loss of parents, siblings and friends, and in some cases have watched loved ones suffer a prolonged death as a result of medical interventions and treatments that didn’t exist for previous generations.

Societies have changed significantly within the lifetime of those born after the Second World War, and while previous generations may have often had their aging parents living with them, as women weren’t a large part of the workforce and were able to care for them. The experience of people dying at home was far more commonplace than it is now, and in fact, now we’re relying on hospices to provide that type of homier atmosphere for the final days of loved ones.

No matter where you stand on the contributions made by Baby Boomers, they have made their mark on all areas of life, innovating like never before and crafting a world in their own image, for better or worse.

They are living on their own terms and will undoubtedly choose to die on them as well.

According to Susan Desjardins of Dying With Dignity, Canadians want the option of a legal doctor-assisted death, and I can say without hesitation, that I sure do.

Having completed the survey, I feel pretty confident that no matter what changes may come as a result of it, we’re not going to see people choosing to die, or to pressure others into making that decision on a whim, or for misguided reasons.

A patient’s mental health must be at the forefront of any such decision and people must always have the option of opting out of a decision they’ve made.

As Canadians we treat our dying pets more humanely than we do our fellow human beings, and we need to ensure that legislation is in place to ensure that are able to choose a doctor-assisted death if and when certain criteria that we have developed ourselves, are met.

I watched my own father die by inches as the result of complications from Multiple Sclerosis and at the end we were asked to make a decision to withhold fluids from him in order to hasten his death.

Frankly, I’d like to opt out of that kind of passage if I can.

 

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