Euthanasia decisions are the hardest

Farzana Hassan

Farzana Hassan

This column was published by the Toronto Sun on August 20, 2015.

By columnist Farzana Hassan

Euthanasia is about intention.

A doctor who is reluctant to perform an assisted suicide but refers a patient to someone else prepared to do it, is on the same moral ground as a doctor who willingly participates.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in February which struck down the ban on euthanasia prompted the Conservative government to form a commission on euthanasia last month.

One of the issues under debate is whether doctors should be compelled to perform assisted suicides on terminally ill patients.

In fact, it is absolutely crucial to determine who can influence the decision of carrying out a physician-assisted suicide.

The ethical and legal issues are complex.

Even deciding on a useful definition of “terminally ill” is a minefield, and that’s just the start.

Medical diagnosis and prognosis are inexact sciences, and mistakes in them often occur in Canada’s healthcare system.

Quebec’s Bill 52 right-to-die legislation, which has already passed, has been interpreted to mean the following:

To qualify as a terminal illness it must be incurable and serious; it must have caused an advanced and irreversible decline in bodily function; the person requesting the procedure must be in unbearable and constant pain, both physical and mental; the patient must be an adult, mentally sound enough to give credible consent.

As an extra safeguard, Quebec requires doctors and patients to get second opinions.

An independent commission composed of doctors, jurists, ethicists and ordinary citizens will oversee the process for reaching such decisions.

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