Euthanasia And The Law

Euthanasia and the Law
A severely handicapped or terminally ill person should have the right to
choose to live or die.The right to live; the right to choose to live or die
should not only be a right allocated for bodied individuals of sound mind but
for all human beings.Euthanasia is a controversial issue which encompasses the
morals, values and beliefs of our society.


Euthanasia, literally defined means “good death”.There are two types
of euthanasia, active and passive.Active euthanasia is the intentional killing
of a person by medical personnel either by a lethal injection or by denying
ordinary means of survival.The act of euthanasia called “passive euthanasia”,
is committed by denying or withholding ordinary medical care to a patient.

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Currently, under Canadian law euthanasia is prohibited. In Holland
euthanasia has been accepted, in principle for terminally- ill patients, on
request.It comes to be seen as practice for those whose “quality of life” is
judged by themselves as worthless.Even though euthanasia is not yet legal in
Holland, it is legally tolerated.Doctors are rarely prosecuted and even more
rarely convicted.If euthanasia were to be decriminalized in Canada certain
restrictions would have to be put into place, to ensure that a patient’s rights
are not infringed upon.A living will should be made when the patient is of
lucid mind.Also, a council should be selected and outlined in the living will.

The council should be chosen by the patient, when the patient is of sound mind
and is able to make decisions.The council might consist of the patient’s
family, doctor or any other he or she feels have the same view or perception of
life.


Presently in Canada a living will is not a legally binding document.A
living will is a document prepared and sighed in advance of illness, in which a
person may specify which treatment or care is to be withheld or withdrawn from
him or her in certain situations.It is extremely general, trying to cover a
wide range of accidents or illnesses and possible treatments.Living wills are
created to protect the individual who is unable to participate in decisions
regarding their medical care.In Canada, even with a living will in many cases
any decisions on the removal of medical care must be passed through the court
system.This system must be amended.The living will should be made a legally
binding document.In the United States, living wills have become legally
binding documents, in most states.The recognition of the living will as a
legally binding document is one of the first necessary step required in the
legalization of euthanasia ant the recognition of ones right to their own life.


Every person has the right to choose to live or die.This statement is
a reality for most individuals, but for many terminally ill or permanently
disabled patients this right cannot be exercised.Many patients lose control of
the function of their arms and or legs and become completed dependent.The
question then becomes, “When does ones quality of life reach such a low level
that life then becomes not worth living?”.A person, at any time, should be
able to make this decision.Under the existing law Canadians are not granted
this right, the right to their own life.An example of the absence of the
“right to die”, can be seen through the examination of a case from 1990.A
woman named Michelle Frenette wanted to be disconnected from the respirator
which was keeping her alive.Her doctors refused to disconnect her from the
respirator without a court order.Michelle’s family could not afford to go to
court, and legal aid does not provide assistance in such cases.So, Michelle
lay there, for two years until her eventual death.She should have been able to
end her life, without having to obtain a court order, when she felt that her
quality of life had been reduced to such a level that it was no longer worth
living.In this particular case the law prevented and discriminated against
Michelle and her inherent right to freedom of choice.


When a person decides whether euthanasia is an option for them, in their
state of illness, they must consider their quality of life.As a result of
their illness, has the quality of their life been reduced to such an extent that
their lives are no longer worth living?Euthanasia should be allowed to be
performed in these such cases.An example can be seen through the examination
of the sue Rodriguez case.Sue Rodriguez was suffering from a fatal
neurological illness which was gradually robbing her of muscle control.
Rodriguez wanted to, “…be able to live as long as possible and to have the
option, of suicide, at a time I feel I do not want to experience any more
discomfort.”In other words she wanted to be in control of her life and her
death, a right that all people should be granted.Rodriguez went to the courts
so that she could obtain permission to exercise her right.After several
appeals and the final appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, Rodriguez was not
granted the right to die.Finally, on February 12, 1994, Rodriguez exercised
her right to die, even though it was illegal.Rodriguez assisted by an unknown
doctor and witnessed by New Democrat MP, Svend Robinson was assisted in her
suicide in he…..r home in Victoria.All people should be granted the right to die
by the law.Not having the right, one’s freedom of choice is infringed upon and
in some cases denied.


A person should have the right to die, but what if they are never fully
competent to be able to form such a decision?Who has the right to say when, by
whom or by what means this should be done?An example of this situation is
evident in the Robert Latimer case.In this situation Tracy Latimer, Robert’s
daughter, had been suffering from cerebral palsy since she was born.Tracy
would never learn to walk, talk or develop mentally, beyond the level of a new
born child.Throughout Tracy’s twelve years of life she experienced almost
nothing but pain.Seizures were nearly continuous until an anticonvulsant drug
reduced them to about five seizures a day.At the age of nine she had an
operation on her legs and feet which left her in a body cast, for six weeks.At
the age of eleven her spinal cord began to cram her organs.Another operation
was performed during which two stainless steel rods were inserted and attached
to the vertebrae.For the pain these operations she could take nothing stronger
than Tylenol.Finally in October of 1993, Tracy’s father, Robert, could not
stand to see her suffer any longer.In an act of mercy he put Tracy into the
family’s truck and hooked the exhaust system of the truck up to a tube so that
the exhaust would enter the cab of the truck.Tracy died from carbon monoxide
poisoning.Robert claimed his act was one of compassion.Robert was tried and
sentenced for second degree murder.The courts’ decision is currently under
appeal.It can be understood that Robert was under great stress and pain to
have to witness some one suffer for so many years.Did he have the right to
decide Tracy’s fate when she did not have the capacities to communicate her
wishes?Was it Robert’s duty or right to end her suffering?
Does a doctor have the right to help his or her patients commit suicide?
Why should a doctor or nurse be penalized for assisting people to exercise their
recognized right to take their own lives?Most people shudder at the stories
about incurably ill people leading a dragged-out vegetative existence in
hospital beds, kept alive only by drugs, intravenous tubes, and respirators.It
is felt by some that they do not want to become “vegetables”, they would like to
die with dignity.Dying with dignity means that the patient’s intellectual
identity is preserved even in the process of dying.In Canada there is a Dying
with Dignity group which concentrates on promoting living wills and lobbying the
medical profession for support.


The act of mercy killing can be compared to that of active euthanasia.
An example of mercy killing takes place every day without much thought if it is
right or wrong.Family pets such as dogs and cats are, “put down”, when the
owner sees that the animal is in constant pain due to illness, most people feel
that it is the humane thing to do.This type of “humane” treatment for animals
has been taking place for years.It can not be understood that society would
let a human life suffer for years.Forcing someone who no longer wants to live,
to live a life full of pain and misery.The humane response to this would be
choose euthanasia, giving freedom to the individual from their pain and
unhappiness.


Under our existing Canadian legislation the following hypothetical
example would leave the medical community and our society in a legal and ethical
bind.Mr. Brown is a transient, who is presently living on the street and in
and out of the Salvation army in downtown Ottawa.Mr. brown has no traceable
family, and no proof of his identity.He has never been declared incompetent in
area’s of either personal property and personal care.He is hit by a car
downtown in the market, he is currently in the Civic Hospital’s intensive care
unit.He is hooked up to, and dependant on life support systems since, his
organs no longer function independently.Brain scans continued to show brain
activity, therefore he cannot be deemed legally dead.He has no living will, no
person deemed power of attorney, no family and is unable to make the decision
himself.According to the law his doctors are unable to detach his life support
systems.When can it be deemed legal for Mr. Brown to be detached from the life
support system?If he were to be disconnected, who would make his decision?As
the law presently states no one has the legal right to disconnect him, to let
nature take its course.Will he be hooked up to life support indefinitely?
What is the cost? Is this burden worthwhile for society?Something must be done
to solve this problem.


A severely handicapped or terminally ill person should have the right to
choose to live or die.The “right to life”, is one that should be a fundamental
right of all individuals.When the time comes that an individual feels that
their pain and suffering has become so extreme that their quality of life has
been reduced to such a level that life is no longer worth living.Canadian laws
presently do not grant individuals these rights.The laws that restrict these
rights must changed to all Canadians with the ultimate freedom of choice the
right to die.