Canada is joining the very small club of countries that do not force a human to suffer needlessly in agonizing pain and decide when they go. They are about to respect their own Canadian charter of human rights to its final conclusion: letting people make their own decisions about their lives and their bodies. Many of us see this as a no brainer.

As always...themes like "yeah but families will push their elders to go ahead and do it already" are useless as no one has demonstrated that this happens on any significant scale...let alone how that justifies not letting ANYONE make their own decisions. However it is still a valid concern.

What is extremely difficult to work out is minors and the end of their lives. It has been legalized in Belgium (exceptional cases with numerous safeguards) and this has outraged much of the world (East and West). A Canadian panel is making recommendations for the upcoming legislation that will be in line with the supreme court decision. The questions are (and it would be great to know what you all think):

  • What should the age of consent be? If it is below 18 who makes the decision? What kind of safeguards are necessary.
  • Who gives consent for the elderly with dementia?
  • What about those who suffer psychological pain rather than physical pain (like the quadriplegic Spanish poet who year after year found life unbearable with the limitations he faced and found someone willing to risk a jail sentence to help him). Is this the same thing as euthanasia or assisted suicide for those with chronic pain and a terminal illness? 

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Comment by matt.clerke on February 25, 2016 at 4:58pm

What should the age of consent be?

A fine question.... old enough to drink, old enough to go to war, old enough to decide on suicide? I don't know. In my experience, an 18 year old is still very much a child in an adult body... they are not as risk averse as older people and are therefore prone to making rash decisions. This is the reason why car insurance is so expensive until you turn 25. Maybe 25 is a better age of consent for matters of life and death.

If it is below 18 the age of consent who makes the decision?

As I mentioned above, I think 25 might be a more appropriate age for "full consent". Under 25, I would suggest the agreement of one or two "witnesses" that end of life is an appropriate course of action would be good. And for the very young, say under 12 or 13, consent lies fully with the parents. In all cases, the agreement of a psychologist or psychiatrist and a medical doctor would also be required.

Who gives consent for the elderly with dementia?

I'm not familiar with dementia but I'm guessing there are two possiblities:

  1. The sufferer has moments of clarity and requests end of life, in this case, I think the consent rules for 12 - 25 year olds would be sufficient.
  2. The sufferer has no clarity, ever. Consent rules for under 12s would be appropriate although rather than parents, children and/or spouses may make the decision.

What about those who suffer psychological pain rather than physical pain... Is this the same thing as euthanasia or assisted suicide for those with chronic pain and a terminal illness?

All pain is psychological pain. Your arm doesn't feel pain, it registers it and sends it to your brain for processing.

Comment by TJ on February 25, 2016 at 6:44pm

The next step is to allow the euthanasia to include other parties who cause pain, in addition to those experiencing it.  Like if someone is such a pain in your ass that its can have them put to sleep.


Comment by Davis Goodman on February 29, 2016 at 4:00pm

@ Matt...that's a pretty good start at working out an ethical explanation

@ TJ ... I'm not sure that would be euthanasia but more of murder of a sort of indiscriminate kind.

Comment by SteveInCO on February 29, 2016 at 11:44pm

The only conceivable reason I could object is if not enough precautions are taken against people suiciding either due to pressure from their families--or guilt over costing them money.  I know that's actually an issue the (more intelligent, less "it's not doG's will") oppostion brings up, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be taken into account.  I.e., make sure there are such precautions.  (Don't let it be used as an excuse to oppose any such measure.)  Which as far as I know, Oregon did.


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