Reclaiming Our Moral Compass. The million-dollar question: Why do we need to reevaluate the moral implications of assisted suicide in today's society?
You are alive during a pivotal moment in history. All of us are immersed in a rapidly changing landscape, where both medical technology and societal values are undergoing a metamorphosis. But the problem with this change is that we are losing sight of the bedrock principles that have long served as the foundation of the medical field: compassion, empathy, and the unwavering preservation of human life.
Stories like Shania's serve as chilling reminders of the far-reaching repercussions and ethical complexities surrounding the contentious issue of "assisted suicide."
Shania de Corte was present at Brussels Airport when a devastating bomb detonated. By the Grace of God, she emerged unscathed, but all of her friends ended up losing their lives. Fast forward six years to 2022, and a deeply unsettling twist to Shania's story unfolds.
Belgian doctors permitted her request for assisted suicide and terminated her life. This young woman, who once teetered on the edge of death and narrowly escaped its clutches, departed this world without fully grasping the extraordinary gift that her survival was. Bizarrely, the very system that prohibits alcohol consumption before the age of 19 permits a teenager to legally end their own life. Extremely odd.
Shania's journey and the circumstances that culminated in her demise underscored the alarming reality of a society that has deviated from the essential tenets of medicine. Lots of people present a lot of arguments in defense for assisted suicide. But if you really think about it, there is no argument sufficient enough to logically support a 23-year-old being granted to terminate their life based solely on a personal choice.
We live in a world replete with groundbreaking medical advancements so how are we simultaneously bearing witness to the rapid erosion of our core values? These values should inform our actions: empathy, compassion, and the sanctity of human life.
We do not even safeguard our virtues anymore. And so now we are witnessing the tragic consequences of embracing a practice that leads to the premature loss of precious lives like Shania's.
This practice is a disrespect for the intrinsic worth of human life, the sacred duty of medical professionals, and the societal obligation to protect our most vulnerable members.
I am going to go over a little bit of history, implications and responsibilities that should be addressed while assisting patients in distress.
And the fact is that I can not state the urgency of this debate.
A growing trend toward the legalization of assisted suicide has emerged in numerous countries worldwide, such as Canada. As more nations embrace this contentious practice, it becomes really important to examine the ethical foundations. Otherwise, we will end up endorsing a course of action that will undermine our collective dedication to preserving life.
To take matters a step further, the prominence of social media and online forums has increased the visibility of personal stories related to assisted suicide, sparking polarizing discussions on platforms like Twitter and Reddit.
The cost of legalization: what are the fundamental values we have exchanged for the acceptance of assisted suicide?
At the heart of the assisted suicide debate lie several fundamental values that are potentially at risk, which I also mentioned above. These include the sanctity of life, the responsibility of medical professionals and the protection of vulnerable populations.
As assisted suicide is adopted, these values become compromised and even challenged. What does this do to our society? We become less committed to preserving life and upholding its ethical duties. Let me explain.
The sanctity of life, a cornerstone principle in many religious and philosophical traditions, asserts that each human life possesses valuable and warrants unwavering protection. But assisted suicide, leads to the undermining of that very principle. How? Well, we give the individuals and society the authority to determine when a life is no longer worth living.
This practice paves the way for a greater willingness to embrace other ethically questionable practices, such as euthanasia, which calls into question the value of human existence.
Incorporating assisted suicides risks compromising the moral responsibility of medical professionals, whose primary mission has historically been to "preserve and protect life." Physician involvement in assisted suicide blurs the delicate boundaries between healing and inflicting harm, which undermines public trust in the medical field.
There’s an escalated risk for vulnerable populations, including the elderly, disabled, and mentally ill. So how do we ensure that these individuals were not coerced or pressured into opting for this irreversible course of action?
There was a tweet that was circulating on Twitter last month that recounts the dangers of coercion and pressure. This gut-wrenching story reveals an elderly gentleman who, despite desiring to live, felt compelled to select assisted suicide due to his precarious financial situation and the absence of support.
This tragic event shows just how susceptible individuals, such as the elderly, are and how they can be coerced into terminating their lives instead of exercising the autonomy to make a truly independent decision. It’s almost as if assisted suicide becomes the default choice for those that have no viable alternatives.
So the question remains: how could we ever have permitted a program to be legalized that endorsed assisted suicide without addressing such pressing concerns or establishing robust safeguards to protect society's most vulnerable members?
Numbers Tell a Story: The impact of the current laws and regulations. What historical and legal developments led to the adoption of assisted suicide in Canada?
The journey towards the legalization of assisted suicide in Canada unfolded through a series of events and court rulings:
1993 - Case of Sue Rodriguez
A crucial turning point emerged with the 1993 case of Sue Rodriguez, a woman with ALS valiantly fought for her right to die with the assistance of a physician (Read more about her case here). Her request was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada, but that was when a nationwide debate was ignited on the issue.
2015 - Carter v. Canada
Then, in 2015, the groundbreaking Supreme Court case (Carter v. Canada) signaled a significant shift in Canadian law, where the court determined that the Criminal Code's provisions prohibiting physician-assisted death "violated" the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This decision paved the way for the legalization of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) under specific circumstances.
Of particular note is the choice of words here: INTOLERABLE SUFFERING.
The thing that baffles me is the contradiction within the argument: The eligibility criteria for the MAiD program seems to encompass individuals beyond the scope of "intolerable suffering" by including those grappling with mental health issues, such as depression and/or anxiety. Now, a person whose mental state may be compromised has the option to apply for a premature end to their life. Makes complete sense, right?
Health Canada's data reveals that the number of MAiD deaths has increased since legalization. In 2019, Canada witnessed 5,631 MAiD deaths. But in 2017, there were 2,149.
This trend underscores paramount importance: an increasing number of individuals are qualifying for MAiD and opting to terminate their suffering through this avenue. So I have to speculate here and wonder whether the surge in numbers is attributable to a rise in qualified applicants or a gradual relaxation of the qualifying criteria.
The guilt of living: How do the current laws and regulations on assisted suicide impact patients, families, and medical professionals?
Don't misunderstand me. Canada has a token regulatory framework designed to govern the practice. But my concerns lie in the adequacy of the safeguards and the potential of abuse.
Patients and their families grapple with an emotionally charged decision when contemplating assisted suicide. When they are faced with the option to alleviate themselves as a burden off their loved ones, many individuals feel an almost irresistible pull to make this choice, driven primarily by a desire to relieve the undue pressure. The elderly man mentioned in @yuanyi_z's tweet experienced such pressure, leading him to opt for assisted suicide out of a sense of obligation—a pang of gnawing guilt intertwined with his continued existence.
The legalization of assisted suicide has ushered in new ethical challenges and responsibilities for medical professionals. How are physicians navigating the delicate act of balancing their steadfast commitment to preserving life while simultaneously respecting their duty to uphold patient autonomy?
The Ethical Conundrum: Do we, as individuals or as a society, possess the right to determine the end of a person's life?
This pivotal question lies at the very heart of the assisted suicide debate. Truth be told, opinions on the matter remain deeply divided.
Advocates for assisted suicide assert that individual autonomy and the right to self-determination should lead to decisions regarding one's own death, particularly in instances of unbearable suffering. They are stubborn in honoring a person's choice to conclude their life with dignity in line with the principle of autonomy, a fundamental cornerstone of medical ethics.
BUT opponents of assisted suicide argue that neither individuals nor society wields the authority to determine when a life is no longer worth living. They contend that such decisions can lead to a perilous devaluation of human life and a slippery slope toward embracing other practices that undermine the sanctity of life.
A comment by a Redditor encapsulates the concern perfectly. Who are we to decide when life should end, when there is a Higher Power governing all aspects of existence?
The sanctity of life: How it comes into play when examining assisted suicide?
What does the sanctity of life principle entail? It signifies that every human life possesses inherent worth. This core principle serves as the foundation for ethics and religious beliefs, emphasizing the moral obligation to preserve and safeguard life, even when confronted with the most profound suffering or adversity.
During my research, I stumbled upon a compelling opinion piece that highlights the gradual erosion of this principle. The author contends that the burgeoning acceptance of assisted suicide is fostering a society that values life conditionally, rather than unconditionally. You can read the thought-provoking piece here.
The unwavering conviction with which Smith tackles the issue serves an important reminder that we cannot afford to be complacent in our pursuit of a "just society." Our collective goal needs to be to ensure that no one feels compelled to leave this world prematurely, before their destined time. Only by doing so can we reaffirm our commitment to life and the foundational values that unite us as a compassionate society.
Scrutinize the measures: How does the acceptance of assisted suicide give rise to unintended and dangerous consequences?
These said consequences extend beyond the individual's decision to end their life.
One such repercussion is the "slippery slope" argument, which means there’s an endorsement of assisted suicide that could ultimately precipitate the gradual erosion of our shared dedication to the sanctity of life.
An insightful article posits that assisted suicide might unwittingly foster perverse incentives for insurance companies and healthcare providers, pressuring patients into selecting death over costly treatments.
Navigating the Moral Responsibility: How does the practice of assisted suicide reshape the traditional role and responsibilities of physicians? Is it possible for medical professionals to maintain a neutral stance in the contentious debate over assisted suicide?
There exists a long-standing conviction that a medical professional's paramount duty is to preserve life and alleviate suffering. The adoption of assisted suicide raises concerns regarding the ethical responsibilities of physicians who are asked to participate in or facilitate such practices.
The highly charged nature of the assisted suicide debate makes it difficult for medical professionals to maintain a neutral stance. Many physicians hold strong personal convictions about the practice, informed by their own ethical, religious, or cultural beliefs.
In a candid blog post on KevinMD.com, a Medical student shares their take on assisted suicide - specifically Canada allowing mentally ill people to qualify.
We do have other options: In what ways does palliative care provide a more compassionate and ethical alternative to assisted suicide? Why has the importance of palliative care been overshadowed in conversations surrounding assisted suicide?
Palliative care concentrates on offering relief from symptoms and distress of severe illnesses, striving to enhance the quality of life for both patients and their families. This approach is a more empathetic and ethical alternative to assisted suicide. It emphasizes comfort, dignity, and comprehensive support for patients without expediting their demise.
Palliative care also remains overshadowed in conversations. One explanation could be the public's lack of understanding of the true essence and capabilities of palliative care, with many people mistakenly equating it to simply providing comfort in the face of inevitable death.
So how do we enhance access to palliative care and address the needs of the terminally ill more effectively? What other policy changes or societal interventions should be considered to better support individuals facing end-of-life decisions?
We live in a time where governments seem more willing to invest in programs that eliminate people rather than implement policy changes or carry out societal interventions for palliative care.
Governments and healthcare systems need to prioritize the funding and expansion of palliative care services. To ensure that people who need it get it, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
How can this be achieved? By implementing a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to end-of-life care that more effectively supports individuals facing difficult decisions and provides a more compassionate alternative to assisted suicide.
Palliative care is a viable alternative that addresses the needs of the terminally ill more effectively. We, as a society, need to inhibit a greater value of human life and foster a more compassionate approach to end-of-life care.
Our time on Earth is fleeting, but generations will follow us. Our decisions today will shape the moral fabric of society and the way end-of-life procedures are approached. What kind of legacy are we leaving for future generations as we wrestle with the ethical challenges of assisted suicide?
There needs to be a more honest and open dialogue about the implications of assisted suicide that challenges this backwards-progression we have embarked on as a society. Only through such discourse can we create a society that critically examines the consequences of its actions and makes informed decisions about its collective values.
In the powerful words of Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of the modern hospice movement, "You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life.”
This ethos leaves behind a legacy that respects the inherent value of every human life, ensuring that future generations inherit a world that is grounded in compassion, empathy, and a profound respect for the sanctity of life.