In June 2016, Canadians gained the right to physician-assisted death – but there were caveats.
Quite rightly, people choosing to go this route had to make the decision with sound mind. More controversially, they had to be near death, or their death had to be “reasonably foreseeable,” a guideline that cuts out a number of people who may feel they have legitimate interest in pursuing that route.
However, since a September ruling by the Superior Court of Quebec challenged the near-death requirement, the federal government is examining the law again.
The law, as it stands now, could appear unfair for those who live Alzheimer’s, other dementias or other diseases that involve cognitive decline, but may see people live for many years in deteriorating conditions. Right now, because they may still have many years left physically, their death is not considered “reasonably foreseeable” and therefore they do not qualify. But as their illness takes its course, they become ineligible by the time their death is imminent because they are no longer mentally fit. Advance directives are not currently allowed.
We do, of course, have to protect the vulnerable from being pressured into consenting to something they don’t want, something that is in all ways final.
But we also need to protect those who want to have the choice to end their lives in a dignified way while they still have their mental faculties, and are not in so much pain that lives have become an intolerable burden.
– Black Press Media