Assisted Dying Not Assisted Suicide

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2). Recently the Federal government passed bill C-14.  What was once called assisted suicide is now called assisted dying. I think the change in language makes this issue much more palatable for the masses. So far in Canada about 200 people have chosen to die with assistance from health care professionals and/or family members. In Canada, two types of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID are allowed).

  1. A physician or nurse practitioner can directly administer a substance that causes the death of the person who has requested it.
    2. A physician or nurse practitioner can give or prescribe to a patient a substance that they can self-administer to cause their own death.

Under Bill C-14, two independent health care professionals need to evaluate an individual in order to determine whether he/she qualifies for MAID. To qualify, an individual must be eighteen years or older and meet the following four eligibility criteria:

  1. Have a serious and incurable illness, disease, or disability.
    2. Be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability.
    3. Endure physical and psychological suffering that is intolerable to them.
    4. Their natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.

Patients must also be capable of providing informed consent at the time that MAID is provided.

I have been in healthcare for almost thirty years now and I can empathize with people who are suffering on many levels. When people opt for assisted death I can understand this process as well. The legislation exists and it is up to individuals and organizations to set and follow standards and protocols to stay within the boundaries of the legislation.  

Bill C-14 is an opportunity for people to discuss how they would like to die. Most of us are busy living but do not give the thought how they would like to die.  If a serious illness was diagnosed how would they like it handled?  If a spouse or child were given a terminal diagnosis what are the decisions the person would like their family members to make for them on their behalf if they could no longer make their own decisions.

In my experience a terminal diagnosis often leaves family members not wanting the person to know the diagnosis as this would speed up the demise of the person if they were apprised of the entire situation. Conversations about death and dying are not easy ones. Just because some discussions are not easy it should not mean we should not have them. Families handle situations the best way they know how at the time.  Hindsight is always 20/20. Healthcare professionals try to meet people where they are in the healthcare process and work with them to provide the best experience possible.  

For anyone who has not had a positive healthcare experience, I apologize on behalf of all healthcare professionals. It is so important not to lose one’s voice in the process.  Ask questions, make suggestions, advocate for yourself and/or loved ones, take someone with you to the appointments, enquire about options, and most of all be kind to yourself and your loved ones in the process.  

Apart from being legislation, Bill C-14 is a service that is being provided in the healthcare system. It is important that people be aware of the options they have for quality of life and now quality of death. To some this is a new concept that is questionable and will take some time to get accustomed to, while others will embrace this new bill as a welcomed and legal option to end suffering.


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