Published on September 27, 2013
Dr. Brad Thorpe, president of the Regional Medical Association, told the Times-Herald the medical community is still conflicted about assisted death.
Austin M. Davis
Published on September 27, 2013
Jean Landry, president of Moose Jaw Right To Life, said the Christian faith gives strength to people as they die and they don't need assisted death.
Austin M. Davis
Video by Dr. Donald Low reignited both sides of "dying with dignity"
Jean Landry, Moose Jaw Right To Life president, said there is no scenario where assisted suicide is ever justified.
“If my dad would have been able to say, ‘OK, I want to be euthanized. I want to go out from this world. I don’t want to be a burden on you anymore,’ that would have hurt us deeply,” Landry told the Times-Herald.
Her father developed Alzheimer’s and couldn’t speak for the last six years of his life. Landry said it would have been a betrayal if he had asked for assisted suicide.
A video with Dr. Donald Low, former chief microbiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, has reignited the debate on medically assisted death.
In it, the 68-year-old made a plea for Canada to re-evaluate its rules around assisted death so terminally ill people could die with dignity.
“I’m just frustrated with not being able to have control of my own life, not being able to make the decision myself when enough is enough,” Low said.
Low died of a brain tumour on Sept. 18, eight days after the video was made.
“It may be good for him because he’s afraid of all the suffering,” Landry said, “but yet, on the other hand, how does that make his family feel?”
In the video, Low said he was not afraid of dying but afraid of how death would come and how it would affect his family.
Members of Moose Jaw Right To Life believe in the sanctity of life from conception until natural death.
“Sometimes we have to be humble in ourselves, that yes, maybe at the end of our life we do become like infants again where we need to allow others to care for us, because that seems to be the cycle of life,” Landry said.
She said she understands the trauma people like Low go through, but assisted death is a “slippery slope.”
She said from a faith-based perspective, no person has the right to make the choice to end his or her life. Landry said people with faith have more strength to go through their final days.
Moose Jaw’s Saskatchewan Party MLAs Greg Lawrence and Warren Michelson did not comment on the assisted death debate.
Steve Rennick, director of communications for the provincial government caucus office, said the issue is a federal matter involving the Criminal Code and the Canada Health Act.
Calls to the office of Palliser MP Ray Boughen were not returned.
It’s quite evident that doctors don’t agree on what they feel the response should be. Dr. Brad Thorpe
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters on Thursday that assisted death is a national discussion, whether the federal government wants it to be or not. She said she is internally debating the issue and hasn’t reached a decision.
The medical community has never been unanimous on assisted death either.
“Even surveying amongst the physicians in the province, it’s quite evident that doctors don’t agree on what they feel the response should be,” said Dr. Brad Thorphe, president of the Regional Medical Association.
He said a Canadian Medical Association (CMA) survey from early 2013 revealed 20 per cent of doctors probably would assist someone who wanted to die. Forty-five per cent said they would refuse completely.
The remaining percentage either didn’t know what stance they would take or didn’t respond to the survey.
“It’s a very difficult ethical question,” Thorpe said.
He said the CMA’s position is that society should determine the answer on medically assisted death, not doctors.
“One of the things that the CMA felt, they wanted to get rid of the term 'physician assisted suicide,' (but) rather (refer to it as) 'physician assisted death,'” Thorpe said. “They felt suicide had a very negative connotation.”
While the CMA may want the question left to the public, it’s evident each individual will have different concerns.
Thorpe said he often hears a comment from patients about society treating animals better, in regard to assisted death.
“I don’t even know what my personal answer is. I deal with death and dying in my own patient population,” Thorpe said. “There are times when I feel a poor person’s suffering and it would be nice if I could alleviate that suffering for them, but then at the same time, I also don’t believe that it should be in my own power to determine life and death.”
Austin M. Davis can be reached at 306-691-1258 or follow him on Twitter @theAustinX.