Last year, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled — unanimously — that patients with severe medical problems could legally ask their doctors to help end their lives.
The Court gave the government a year to implement new laws taking the decision into account, which they failed to do even after a four-month extension, but the law eventually passed in June. Physician-assisted death is now legal in the country for anyone 18 or older, a Canadian citizen, mentally competent, suffering from a “serious and incurable disease, illness or disability,” and in an “‘advanced state of irreversible decline,’ with enduring and intolerable suffering.”
It’s not a perfect law. Critics point to the fact that people with terminal illnesses can’t choose death unless it’s “imminent,” so those with chronic disabilities are stuck. The law also allows doctors to say no to participating in such a procedure for religious reasons.
That’s the issue at the center of a new controversy. Last month, 87-year-old Ian Shearer was in enormous pain for a variety of reasons and wanted to end life on his own terms. The problem is that he was at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, and none of the doctors would assist him.
He spent the last several hours of his life trying to transfer to a new hospital — the ambulance was three hours late and the ride was bumpy enough to amplify his pain — where someone could take care of him because the taxpayer-funded Catholic institution had abdicated its responsibility.
“To hear him crying out, screaming … was just horrible,” said [daughter Jan] Lackie, breaking into tears as she recalled the day in late August. “That’s what keeps me from sleeping at night … I don’t want any other person to go through what he did.”
“We have nine judges who said ‘Yes’ to medical assistance in dying,” she said. “I don’t understand how the Vatican has so much power, even here in Canada.”
Shearer eventually died at Vancouver General Hospital with the help of a physician, but not before experiencing hours of unimaginable pain.
How does the Catholic hospital justify its decision not to help him?
“Life is sacred and the dignity of the person is important,” said Michael Shea, president of the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada. “These organizations neither prolong dying nor hasten death, and that’s a pretty fundamental value for them.”
They refuse to “hasten death”… even when life is nothing but agony for the patient. They’d rather see someone tortured than help the person die in peace. What a barbaric system of faith-based pro-life “values.”
Also remember that Vancouver General was only a few miles away… but what about patients suffering in Catholic hospitals when no secular alternatives are nearby? What are they supposed to do? The doctors’ refusal to help patients in that case means some of them won’t be able to take advantage of a legal practice. This is a problem that needs to be resolved now before more patients are placed in that awful situation.
(Image via Shutterstock)