To be or not to be, is still the big question

By P.A. Sévigny on December 27, 2010

While death and taxes continue to be the two immutable factors of modern life, questions raised by legal euthanasia seemed to be less concerned with the inevitable end of life as opposed to the where, when and especially how the lights get turned off.

“It’s not so much about if we’re going to die,” said Dr. Stephen Liben. “It’s all about how we’re going to die.”

During a recent panel discussion held in the McGill University Medical Faculty’s Palmer Auditorium, almost two hundred people listened to Liben and five other panelists discuss the medical and legal ethics of euthanasia. Produced by the CBC and hosted by Sunday Morning radio host Michael Enright, the panel’s sometimes heated discussions went on for an hour before the audience got their chance to line up at the microphones to pose their own questions. Besides Dr. Liben, other members of the panel included pain relief specialist and emergency room nurse Mary Griffin, patient rights advocate Linda Couture, The Métropolitain`s publisher Beryl P. Wajsman, euthanasia advocate Alain Jarry and McGill’s  medical ethics and law specialist Margaret Somerville. Apart from Jarry’s defense of what he described as a patient’s ‘right to die’, Wajsman`s passionate defense of the individual’s right to make his or her own decisions almost immediately shoved the debate out of the hospital (where life ends for over 80% of the population) and into the courts which affect us all. 

“Death is lousy,” said Wajsman. “…But in the end, people must be allowed to make up their minds about what they’re going to do with their own life.”

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled by a vote of 5 to 4,  that giving someone a lethal injection, regardless of intent, is nothing less than murder worth a minimum of 10 years in jail. Even if a recent poll indicates over 70% of the province’s population said they believe euthanasia would be an acceptable medical option for the sick and the helpless. 

Liben said euthanasia would do far more harm than good, Somerville extended his argument when she told the audience that  the state and the medical profession cannot cross the line and begin to kill people. 

“There’s a big difference between death due to natural causes as opposed to a death caused by a lethal injection,” said Sommerville.. 

Citing their extensive medical and professional experience with both the sick and the dying, both Liben and Griffin also provided the audience with eloquent arguments about the validity of palliative care as opposed to the possibility of a quick, expedient and efficient final solution which Liben said would free up a lot of beds probably save the government’s health services a lot of money.

Wajsman agreed.

“Make no mistake,” he said. “The government is pursuing euthanasia because they want to save some money.”

 

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