Assisted Suicide,

Assisted Suicide: A Local Issue

June 30, 2018 Rachel Rowbottom 0 Comments

When we read about events that degrade the value of life, such as euthanasia and abortion, we often think of them as something far away. These issues often aren't personal, close to home, and don't seem to affect us. But maybe they reach closer than we expect, into our very own neighbourhoods.

   The death of Sally Scales caused a stir among Salmon Arm residents. She was among the first to be euthanized in the area. However, it isn't such an uncommon occurrence in BC anymore. "Medical Assistance in Dying" is becoming a more favourable option, as it is being portrayed as a positive thing. 
   After attending a meeting this past winter in which this subject was discussed by Dr Warren Bell, we decided to interview someone in the area who is familiar with Euthanasia. They work in the health-care field and are able to give us a better glimpse into the effects of this practice.

Would you agree that Medical Assistance in Dying is being portrayed as almost a preferable alternative to natural death among the elderly/ill, and this is influencing their decisions? Have you witnessed a feeling of being a burden, useless, or pressure from family members having an impact on the decision of those who choose MAiD? 

"Yes, there are many elderly people choosing MAiD as an option with fear seeming to be the driving factor. Families do have a lot to do with their decisions. I am seeing more and more people chose MAid as an alternative because they choose to "not be a burden" to anyone. It is extremely sad and hurts my heart when people say things like that, because having dedicated my life to caring for others, I cannot see a more rewarding way to spend my life than to know and honour these people. I have personally seen families have screaming matches over the family member being 'selfish for choosing this method', but it appears that these people in care had decided long before the family did."

Have you ever seen elderly choosing Medical Assistance in Dying when not having a critical illness or severe pain, but just because they wanted to end their life and felt they were old enough to die? 

  "Someone cannot just choose MAid, they have to have a proven illness that will eventually take their life. most of the people I have seen were cancer patients. I read an article in the Observer about Sally Scales, and her story was that she had not wanted to be alone anymore, which was strange because her son submitted the article, so she must have had loved ones around her." 

Is it common for medication and painkillers to be unable to relieve pain?

   "It is uncommon for normal medications such as Morphine or Hydromorph (Hydromorphone) to be ineffective for people experiencing pain in hospital or facilities. I think it's a load of hogwash when people say otherwise. Someone close to me, who was at the end of their life, experienced pain in the hospital and they gave them Hydromorph and they were fine after that."

Dr Bell also mentioned that people Dementia and Alzheimers are allowed to get MAiD. Are patients with these conditions unable to live happily and at least somewhat comfortable lives? 

   "If someone with Alzheimer's were to choose MAiD it would have to be in the early stages, as the law in Canada only allows for choices to be made under clear mind. You cannot have other people make the decision for you. So, essentially, you are robbing yourself of what could be years of life ahead of yourself."

    According to most doctors, and care-aid workers, those who have Dementia and Alzheimers can enjoy life. When Teepa Snow was asked this question, she said“Absolutely. They can and do enjoy life. That enjoyment, when it happens, is moment by moment — pretty much the same way we enjoy life.” (1)

How has the change in laws about MaiD impacted your career and affected you as a care-aid? Do you feel that you don’t have a choice or voice in the /MAiD situation, and have to complete jobs or be involved in things that make you uncomfortable?

   "As far as having a say in the MAiD process or my concerns, I have been told, "We work for the government when the government passes a law it becomes something we are mandated to follow. You and I may not agree with this process at all; however, I just ask that you do your job to the best of your ability and remind your co-workers to do the same.

    That was stated to me on the first day, and I was asked to do care of the person before they died. I was not allowed to say no, and was reminded that if I liked my job and wanted to keep it, I would not cause a stir about a law that was now mandated. I have not attempted to speak with those in authority about the issue since.

    On a personal level, I struggle with working at a facility that would house an act such as MAiD. My struggle is a lot about guilt and responsibility. I may not be the one 'pulling the trigger', but it feels just as bad knowing that someone else is doing it when I am in the same building. There is nothing to do but pray that the person dies a natural death and it has happened a number of times!

   Another concern I wanted to address was about something stated regarding insurance papers. I had life insurance papers with a previous job, which stated that suicide within the first 2 years would make the insurance null and void. It was such an odd thing to have in the insurance papers, but now I finally get it! It makes me more than a little sick to my stomach to hear Dr Bell state that they change some information to say things like, "Died peacefully,  from cancer-related causes, or some other disease."

    The final thoughts of this health care individual are thought-provoking.

"Without suffering there can be no compassion ~ I heard this quote, and it has changed my life and the way I look at things because life is not always easy and the quest for the "easy way out" just shocks me."

   Medical Assistance in Dying is not a glamorous, beautiful, or peaceful process. It is something that cannot be reversed. When making decisions about something so serious, we must think, look at the effects, and always remember that life is worth living. 

   Although many people reassure us Canadians that there is no "slippery slope", and the laws will not become more drastic, there is already a call for change. Philip Nitschke made a speech in Toronto this March, calling for the legalization of "personal euthanasia". He believes, as do some others, that the guidelines for MAiD are too strict, and should be opened for those who do not directly fit into them. (2)

   His influence, as that of everyone who promotes a person's "choice" of death, has already impacted the actions of others. 

   Adam Maier-Clayton, a 27-year-old Canadian, with depression, anxiety, and another psychiatric condition called somatic symptom disorder committed suicide after losing a battle to be allowed euthanasia. Nitschke advised him and informed him of a drug which he could take to commit suicide. Adam followed his advice and ended his life in April 2017. (3)
  His death has been one of the major pushes to bring about a review of the laws in Canada - in which the inclusion of minors, mentally ill, and those with Alzheimer's & dementia within MAiD guidelines - will be discussed. This review will be completed in December of this year. 

   The idea of minors and those will mental illness being able to receive euthanasia is not something to be scoffed at or mocked. There is a real possibility that this will be allowed, and we will slide further down the slippery slope of lowering the value of life.


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