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Criminal Law

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        Based on a 2014 Ipsos Reid poll opinion poll, it was articulated that 84 per cent of Canadians believe that gravely ill patients should have the right to end their lives with the help of a certified doctor. Doctor assisted suicide involves a medical practitioner who provides a competent terminally- ill patient with a lethal dose of medication in order to end the patient’s life. In various countries such as Switzerland and Belgium, assisted- suicide has already been implemented within their own guidelines but is still considered a legal act. Doctor assisted-suicide is a controversial criminal justice issue due to the fact that many citizens believe that a terminally- ill human being should have the right to make an informed decision on whether or not they want to end their life while others analyze it from a moral perspective. As a global topic, medically assisted- suicide would provide choice for competent Canadians and protect the most vulnerable members of our society. For these reasons, assisted-suicide should remain a legal law in Canada and become legal in all remaining states and countries around the world to provide options to those who face the prospect of eventual death.

        Doctor assisted-suicide is a non-harmful, compassionate way for individuals facing unforeseen death and of course solely by the choice of the patient. The Supreme Court of Canada removed the laws forbidding assisted suicide, because they unfairly restricted personal choice in what is supposed to be considered a “free country.” With the law now being legal in Canada under extenuating circumstances, this provides extensive choice within the patient, the family and the doctor.  Since 2016, at least 744 gravely ill adults received a doctor’s help to end their lives dating back to when the medical procedure became legal across Canada and the number is expected to rise yearly. (CTV News) The Liberal government passed Bill C-14 which would allow the liberty of people with terminal illness to choose to die with a doctor’s help. This legal act provides closure more than anything for the patient along with their family and friends to say their final good-byes. Rather than suffering in pain for the remainder of their time on this planet, the patient is able to end their life with dignity and be confident that they have experienced an enjoyable life. Living a terminally-ill life usually means constant visits to the hospital or in some cases it can be a permanent visit and the hospital visits are never pleasant. While it may sound extremely cruel and heartless, if a patient is older and is unfortunately diagnosed with a terminal illness, they can choose to refuse further treatment and medical assistance. It’s never easy for doctors or the family of the patient to accept that decision but in the darkness of those times, there’s always a benefit.  The money that would have been used to provide health care for the patient can now be diverted to other similar medical needs for children who need medical attention and other patients with severe injuries. Such major terminal conditions are extremely expensive as doctors are forced to used sophisticated hospital equipment in order to cater to a patient’s needs. Canadian provinces are already overpaying for pharmaceutical drugs in the medicine industry by over a billion dollars a year (National Post) so it’s a necessity to either be cutting down on medical expenses in order to provide absolute and impartial service to those who desperately need treatment or taxpayers will have to be required to pay an increment amount of money in order to support the medical industry.  The terminally-ill patient by their choice is making more contributions to society than they may have known at first which can hopefully make them feel more at peace. Canada’s health system is a source of pride for many Canadians but ironically, more money is spent on prescription drugs than almost every other country in the world. Canada is the only country in the world that has universal healthcare but no universal drug coverage. (Fifth Estate) Healthcare costs can be reduced by having the nurse or doctor move onto a patient that has a chance at living instead of helping a terminally-ill patient who didn’t want the medical attention to begin with. In the instance where the patient still requests treatment, it should be a necessity that they are still looked after with the patient’s permission.

        On March 1st, 2016, a Calgary woman received legal exemption for doctor- assisted suicide that ended her life in Vancouver with the aid of two physicians. It is believed that she is the first person in Canada outside of Quebec to be allowed to legally end her life with the help of a doctor. (As of 2016) (CBC News) For privacy reasons, the Calgary woman was only known as “Ms. S.” She was in constant pain, almost completely paralyzed from head to toe and was told that the disease she was suffering from would kill her within six months. Ms. S. took some time to gather her thoughts and decide on what her future would look like with only a certain amount of time remaining on this planet and felt that it was her time to go in peace. The Alberta judge found Ms. S. had met all the criteria to make a monumental decision as she was a competent adult with a grievous and irremediable medical condition. (CBC News) She clearly gave the consent to the termination of life and therefore was granted her loss of life. Under Canada’s current law, Euthanasia became legal as of June 2016 but be repeatedly expressed, not implied including in the moment right before death. Although, at the time of Ms. S’ case, the law was that it was a crime to assist another person in ending their life until two decisions at the Supreme Court of Canada allowed exemptions if certain criteria are met. In January of 2016, the country’s highest court granted the constitutional exemption to those who make an application in superior court and are found to meet the criteria until legislation would be crafted in June of 2016.

Certainly, there is a slippery slope when it comes to doctor assisted suicide in the sense that there’s always a possibility that someone may resort to this idea when they feel like a burden to their loved ones financially and emotionally. One of medicine’s most important purposes is to allow hopelessly ill people to die with as much comfort, control and dignity as possible.  From a moral perspective, assisted-suicide also brings up controversial points of interest with regards to ending a human beings life. From solely a doctor’s point of view, it would generally have to be very difficult to have to look at a lively, moving patient and watch them lose their life from a euthanized injection especially when the doctor is more than likely to have to experience future trauma in their career from this particular task. It is not uncommon for a worker in the medical or law enforcement field to experience post-traumatic stress disorder. There is a cause for concern that people who are in a state of vulnerability may be pressured either consciously or unconsciously to demand for medical assistance in dying for reasons such as financial problems, family problems or even just because the medical help that they may need is not necessarily available for that patient. They may not entirely want to end their life but may pertain to it to provide less of a burden to their family to have to pay insurmountable debts and medical costs.  Furthermore, assisted- suicide acts are typically based on emotion when it comes to countries being all for it. First thought in a person’s mind whenever they see or hear about a dying person is feel empathy. However, behind that emotion of empathy secretly hides a cloud of judgement as in their minds, they believe that this person’s life is not worth living any longer and that this pain needs to end now. Generally speaking, a similar example to assisted-suicide would be an elderly citizen or someone permanently in a wheelchair. People are either compiling a judgement or are feeling compassion when they say that that this type of life is not worth continuing on.



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