Monsieur Driftwood wrote:
But it wouldn't be the doctor making the decision. I'm not arguing that doctors should be able to choose to end their patients' lives. I'm arguing that the patients themselves have that right to choose for themselves.
The problem is that some people, especially elderly people, are relatively easy to talk into things, or can be made to sign things without really understanding what's at stake. Doubly so if euphemisms are used. We might assume that someone saying "Sign this, and I'll end all your pain and suffering" is code for "I'm going to kill you and end your misery", but we can't rule out the possibility of someone not getting it. And even if it's explained in greater detail, someone who might want to die one day, might not the next (or might have forgotten that they agreed to it yesterday).
Then there's the issue with someone else signing off. Who gets to do this? What if there are nefarious reasons behind it that the doctor may not be aware of? There's a reason most doctors shy away from this sort of thing, even when/where it's legal. No one wants to contemplate having ended someone's life when that person really did want to go on living. And while there are cases where it's very clear what the patient wants, there are some where it's not. Trying to find that line can be tricky, so it might be easier to just not put it there in the first place.
I don't know how BC does it, but we've had this on our books
for a while. Once people gave up trying to repeal and fight it, it's pretty much been a non-issue. There haven't been any major problems arising from it at least.
Some points of note:
You have to have less than 6 months to live.
Doctors can opt out of offering the lethal dose of prescription.
You have to have witnesses sign off on it that aren't related, and aren't able to financially benefit from the death in any way.
You have to be mentally competent.
That actually sounds quite reasonable. This is how it should be done.
Yup. Oregon's law isn't half bad. There are still potential pitfalls though and it basically only covers those obvious cases I spoke of earlier. It doesn't at all address the issue with someone with failing mental/physical capabilities but who might live for many more years. It's kind of the low hanging fruit of the issue IMO. Let's face it, you could just do pain management for the person if they've only got 6 months anyway, and the whole suffering thing isn't as much of an issue. I think that the really controversial aspects of the issue lie with those who aren't going to die naturally in short order. That's where the moral issues really come up. Sure. Someone's got ALS. It's terrible. They'll suffer for years or even decades before dying naturally. There's no hope, right? But what if a year or two after you sign off on an assisted suicide for someone say in their 40s suffering from this disease, a breakthrough in stem cell research comes along with a complete cure that will reverse it? You've just killed someone who might have lived another 30 or 40 years needlessly.
The unfortunate part of this issue is that the longer the term of suffering one is facing the more questionable the idea of assisted suicide becomes from a medical/moral perspective. So those who would suffer the most and the longest are those we're least willing to "help" out of their condition. I'm just not sure there's a good and easy answer for this one.