Canada legalises euthanasia, but there’s a catch 17

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Euthanasia, or voluntary assisted suicide, is the subject of much moral, religious, legal and human rights debate in Australia, but with more and more big names coming out in support of it perhaps it’s time the country had a real discussion about it.

While there have been several attempts to legislate euthanasia in parts of Australia it remains unlawful at present. At the core of the argument is how to assuage the desire of individuals to choose to die with dignity when they are suffering with the need to defend the right to life of every person.

Recently former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke blasted the lack of political will to legalise assisted suicide. The comments you posted to the Starts at 60 Facebook page and website showed an overwhelming support for such legislation in this country. With an election looming and broader discussion of euthanasia on a podcast called Better Off Dead, perhaps the issue has been thrust into the political sphere.

However, as is often the case, Australia is playing catch up to other countries.

Draft legislation legalising euthanasia has been revealed in Canada.

It’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau who said the draft legislation would allow doctor-assisted suicide to be available to adults suffering incurable illness or disability, but it stopped short of extending it to minors or the mentally ill at this stage.

“It’s a deeply personal issue that affects all of us and our families and all of us individually as we approach the end of our lives,” Trudeau told a news conference.

The Canadian prime minister’s own father, Pierre Trudeau (who also held the position of Canada’s prime minister in the ’80s), declined medical treatment for cancer prior to his death in 2000.

Canada would be one of only a handful of Western countries that allow the practice. The Netherlands were the first country to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide in April 2002, while in February 2014 Belgium became the first country to have euthanasia laws that included children.

In Canada, patients would be required to make a written request for medically-assisted dying, or have a designated person do so if they are unable, there would be a mandatory waiting period of 15 days and patients are able to withdraw their request at any time. Only those eligible for Canadian health services qualify, which eliminates the prospect of ‘suicide tourism’.

In Australia politicians from both sides supported a closer look at the issue.

Cabinet secretary Arthur Sinodinos told the Sydney Morning Herald it was an issue “certainly worth exploring”, which shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said “the time has come”. The opposition leader wouldn’t speculate on a specific policy for the Labor party to take to the election.

Do you have any thoughts on legalising euthanasia? What do you think should be included in a proposed model for legal euthanasia?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I’m all in favour off it but it should be medically supervised . a simple pill to put you quietly to sleep permanently would be ideal . There could be the provision that there is a waiting period of one month for obtaining the required means .in case the person was just suffering a temporary depression .
    and the Insurance companies would probably need to be involved and informed . I can just imagine someone taking their own life and the insurance companies refusing to pay up .

    1 REPLY
    • One could negotiate with insurance companies for a a 75% release of the insurance amount before euthanasia is applied for. This would be very interesting to see. However, I think you’d need to carefully check your Life Insurance policy whether the Insured has an obligation to report terminal ill health to the Insurance at any given time or at renewal of the policy. Don’t all life insurance policies permanently expire at age of 75? If they do, then there’s no problem on this issue.

  2. While euthanasia would be my personal choice I can’t help but remember Joh Bjelkie Petersons words- Illegal yesterday, legal today, compulsory tomorrow. Really think about it and it shouldn’t become an election issue.

    1 REPLY
    • It should be part of the election issue referendum.

      1 REPLY
      • No one is forced to do it. In my opinion it should be in the form of a Living Will while you can still make that decision for yourself.

  3. As a former nurse I have a living will which stipulates what is to happen to me
    in the event of me being left in a vegetable state or I am terminally ill,
    I have seen two members of my immediate family suffer terribly and would not
    want it to happen to me.

    1 REPLY
    • I didn’t realize a L W was legal Carol…

  4. Any person with terminal illness should have the right to euthanasia with Hospital recommendation, family and State approval no matter at what age.
    For individuals who want to depart from this hell hole on Earth for any reason, they should have the right to euthanasia after the age of 80 providing they register in in person and in writing with a Solicitor that this is their Sole Will and are doing so without coercion from any living person and without any financial debt to any person or organisation.
    The applicant must also providence evidence that they have made fully paid for proper funeral arrangement. A Public Notice of Intent must be lodged by the solicitor on behalf of the applicant for a period of 6 months to allow creditors to make their claims. Once all that is cleared, “off-you-go” to a registered and licenced euthanasia centre.

  5. I think there should be counseling for family members and the dying…separately. I think the decision must come from the dying party not the family…there mustn’t be coercion (especially if there is inheritance involved down the track). Doctors should have more training in this area and counseling too. Some doctors will still think it is wrong morally to take life. My dad wanted the right to die peacefully and with dignity. His passing was awful for him and distressing to watch. I wouldn’t have let my dog suffer like that. Big question….what about dementia sufferers? They aren’t always in pain and by the time they become incapacitated, they are unlikely to be able to make a decision. Britain in its initial debate has said that dementia patients would not be considered for assisted release of life…then they rejected the issue in parliament last November. My mother has dementia….it is again truly awful.

  6. It is every persons right to make their own choice. We all have a right to die with dignity. I watched my father dying.. He did not want to pass this way and I will never get over feeling so stressed and upset for him. Legalise Euthanasia.. Stop the terrible suffering and let people pass peacefully.

  7. I believe that waiting months for permission would be classified as torture. I think that while sound of mind, we should put a codicil in our will that states quite clearly what we want to happen. I have a chronic disease and know my dying will be like. I do not want my family to see this. So why can’t I Go when I’m ready, still of sound mind to say goodbye to the family, give my last instructions to them and go peacefully before the agony starts ? I think this is what the Medical Directive wants in writing & I will be doing it as soon as I find out where to get the forms

  8. I’m all for euthanasia as dying is part of what we do as living beings. It’s also natural to deteriorate as we age and some of that deterioration involves suffering and loss of dignity. If a person of sound minds wishes to apply for assisted suicide, then he or she should be allowed to do so.

  9. I can’t see a problem with a person choosing euthanasia (while they are of sound mind) if they develop dementia or a incurable illness. It’s their choice only, not any relative who may have ulterior motives so with strict regulations in place there would be no “slippery slope” as some would have us believe. Dementia patients can’t always communicate that they are in pain – or communicate full stop, so it’s very difficult to know what they need and they are often ignored.

  10. It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of euthanasia was used only for animals. It has been a slow “chipping away” of that idea to now include human beings over the past 20 years. That’s how long it takes to change society’s whole attitude to dying. Once dying was a special time everyone had to face and now there’s an option to escaps that experience. I am not in favour of it. I know that the “slippery slope” is there waiting…In Holland elderly people are afraid of nursing homes as they are so aware that when the time comes and they are dying, some other person will make the decision for them and end their life.

    1 REPLY
    • Anne, please use only statements that are accurate. Your last sentence contains assumptions that are not supported by the facts. And I assume that you are referring to the Netherlands, and not to one of the Holland provinces Nord or Sud.

  11. Every decision will have pro’s and con’s.

    The primary aim should be to allow our friends and loved ones to die with dignity when that dignity is about to be compromised (if they so wish of course.)

    The secondary considerations are the potential for unintended manipulation by other interested parties .That would be a matter for ensuring adequate legal tests qualifying potential beneficiaries within the legislation.

    Strict guidelines within the law must be balanced with compassion for the suffering. It’s not that hard.

  12. a simpler way to deal with t his issue that does not offend religious beliefs is to decriminalise the import, possession and use of small quantities of nembutal, making it easier for people to commit suicide without having to visit Mexico or buy from dodgy Chinese companies over the Internet

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