Print Edition: July 16, 2014
Euthanasia is still illegal in Canada, but Quebec passed legislation in June giving patients with terminal illness a choice to end their lives.
Technology has radically transformed health care, both positively and negatively. The development of life support machines began in the mid-1930s to help take over the function of the heart and lungs. This was to allow for support during critical operations like open heart surgery, but over the years these machines have been recreated for a more permanent duty: prolonging life.
This idea of preventing the inevitable is echoed back to us in the media with commercials of anti-aging creams and healthy diets to make you feel younger. We are obsessed with death and dying to the point where we will keep a loved one plugged into a machine long after they lose consciousness and the opportunity to die naturally. There is no sense in keeping a body alive once the mind has departed. Common sense suggests that life ends when a person’s breathing and heartbeat stop.
It proves we don’t know how to let go. Prolonging life is a selfish choice. It physically and emotionally alienates the individual from their family. Instead of being at home surrounded by family, they are kept in the hospital, surrounded by strangers. And while some family members may visit them as a courtesy, most will avoid the tension and formality of a hospital room.
At this moment there are around 10,000 people in Canada on life support who are in a vegetative state. Maybe that’s because their family members are waiting for a miracle, or their lives have become an item on the to-do list to deal with later. Whatever the case may be we must ask: do people have the right to die? This is the question Quebec’s legislation tries to answer.
Euthanasia does not devalue the lives of sick and disabled; it’s a way to not only ease their suffering, but draw clearer regulations for doctors in regards to end-of-life decisions.