Friday, November 28, 2008

Development of an Alternate Policy - Euthanasia in the Law

Based on concerns raised in our last blog entry regarding the alternate policies that have recently been developed surrounding euthanasia in Canada, we have developed our own set of recommendations. Using Bill C - 407 as a template we have created our own Bill regarding euthanasia in Canada.

Changes we did and did not make:

-Initially some of our group members wanted to ensure that all treatment options must have been tried in order to receive euthanasia. However, we did not include this option because it violated our freedom to consent to medical procedures and if it was enacted, the new policy would likely have been struck down as unconstitutional (Refer to previous post “Religion and Euthanasia - Intro” and "Religion and Euthanasia - Legislation")

-We have limited the practice of euthanasia solely to medical practitioners in order to prevent potential abuses of the system. The practice and execution (no pun intended) of euthanasia is highly complicated and many different issues are at stake. By making physicians the sole profession that can perform assisted suicide, we have helped to ensure that careful and educated consideration will be given to all issues at stake. This is an assumption on our part, but we believe it is a reasonable one.

- In our formulation of our new euthanasia policy we have also stipulated that the supervising medical practitioner must have been familiar with the case for at least 3 months. This helps to ensure that the medical practitioner is making informed and well balanced choices when he or she agrees to euthanize a patient. It also allows them a greater opportunity to perform their “due diligence” when assessing the patients request for assisted suicide. This familiarity with the patient hopefully means that they will be more aware of any external issues or pressures that may be influencing the patients decision.

It should also be noted that this particular guideline also limits “death tourism” to a large extent. It will make it very difficult for individuals outside the country to come to Canada to be euthanized. We would argue that Canadians are not interested in a “death tourism” industry and that this provision is in our best interests.

- The word lucid has also been more heavily defined in this amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code. Now someone's “lucidness” has to be determined by a registered psychologist or psychiatrist and their assessment must conform to the definition provided in the bill. The wording in the bill effectively allows the mental health professional involved the power to block approval for assisted suicide. This was determined to be a necessary concession to the possible psychological issues at stake in such an emotionally charged decision. (Refer to previous post on “Euthanasia and Depression”)

It is important to understand that this restricts eligibility for euthanasia to some extent for those who are suffering from mental anguish. However, due to the issues mentioned above this was a necessary sacrifice. This more conservative approach also makes it more likely that people will be more accepting of a bill surrounding euthanasia. (See previous post Assisted Suicide Eligibility Criteria - Some Thoughts)

- We have also stipulated that a hospital review board determine whether or not the assisted suicide conforms to the appropriate legal standards outlined by this amendment and we have given them the role of determining the most humane form of death for the patient. This allows the doctor who receives the euthanasia request some security and comfort, in that they know their actions have been verified by several other professionals who would support them should legal issues be raised during these proceedings.  

Although Canada is currently run out of a conservative government that does not mean we have to always think 'conservatively'. Canada is unique, and each individual in this country is unique as well; All with their own values, beliefs, and destinies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even though this part of a new policy may have been struck down as unconstitutional, I think that it would be important to address treatment options prior to a decision about euthanasia. Perhaps not ALL treatment options should be tried, because that is next to impossible, however I do believe that some form of treatment should be explored before euthanasia becomes an option.