Bioethics Blogs

Advance Request for Euthanasia?

Catherine Ferrier raises concerns about advance requests for medical assistance in dying.

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The June 6 deadline for legislation in response to the Carter judgment has come and gone, and our government has yet to adopt a law regulating medical assistance in dying. Too few of us have any idea what we are rushing into.

In the Carter decision the Supreme Court judges stated that the risks associated with physician-assisted death can be limited through a carefully designed and monitored system of safeguards. In contrast, the pressure is on to offer death as a solution for all forms of suffering, available to virtually everyone, including those who fear future suffering or disability.

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs wants Bill C-14 amended to include the recommendation of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, “That the permission to use advance requests for medical assistance in dying be allowed any time after one is diagnosed with a condition that is reasonably likely to cause loss of competence or after a diagnosis of a grievous or irremediable condition but before the suffering becomes intolerable….”

The Old Age, The Seven Ages of Man by Robert Smirke (1798- 1801)

I have spent the last 30 years diagnosing, treating, and caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It takes no special insight to realize that they are the principal intended “beneficiaries” of this recommendation.

Dutch academic Boris Brummans wrote in his 2007 article Death by Document of his father’s euthanasia death through an advance directive. His father had cancer, not dementia, but the issue is the same.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.