To What Extent Should Safeguards Be Put into a Potential Euthanasia Law in Canada?
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To What Extent Should Safeguards Be Put into a Potential Euthanasia Law in Canada?Danny Lee, Feb 5th, 2016Word Count: 1958Table of Contents‚Ö†. Introduction¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†‚Ö°. Legal Considerations¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†‚ÖĘ. Social Implications¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†‚Ö£. Medical arguments¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†‚Ö§. Conclusion¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†‚Ö•. References¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†‚Ö†. Introduction¬†Is the right to determine one‚Äôs own death an inalienable human right? Until very recently, it has not been in Canada. However, in Carter v Canada, several parties challenged the Canadian Criminal Code‚Äôs prohibition on euthanasia. These families included Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, both of whom were women suffering from degenerative, terminal illnesses. They challenged this law, because they argued that it violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On February 6th¬†of 2015, the nine Supreme Court Judges unanimously decided that Canadian adults, who are in their right mind and who are suffering intolerably, have the right to die with a doctor‚Äôs assistance. However, euthanasia is a very controversial subject. Proponents for this law changing argue that it is an individual‚Äôs right to choose when and how to die. They also contend that it will end needless suffering. However, ineffectively controlled euthanasia is extremely dangerous. It is difficult to enforce a perfect law and it is even more challenging when the law is regarding death. Precedents, from countries who already have euthanasia laws, have demonstrated that there can be numerous negative consequences. It has been more than a decade since countries, including Belgium, have legalized euthanasia. During this period, their laws have been consistently criticized for having loopholes. Thus, the question becomes to what extent should safeguards be put into a potential euthanasia law in Canada?¬†If Canada passes the euthanasia bill, our legislation must include rigorous regulations that consider several areas of Canadian life. First, there are several legal considerations. Equally important is the way the new law may affect Canadian society and its opinion on this subject. Finally, there is also a need to consider questions of medical ethics. These dangers are the reason why the Supreme Court suspended its ruling for 12 months, allowing the government time to draft a bill on euthanasia that would provide protective legislation around these issues. ‚Ö°. Legal Considerations¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†The first major concern legislators in Canada must examine in the drafting of this bill is that there are several legal areas that must be seriously considered. The first legal issue is a fascinating one that relates to our judicial process. Most Western democracies, including Canada, have three branches of government (legislative, executive, judicial) to ensure a balance of power. The legislative makes the laws; the executive uses these laws to run the country on a daily basis; and the judiciary settles disputes between individuals and the government, and differences between different levels of the government. In 1982, our Constitution was repatriated, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was added to it. This Charter trumps all other laws, and therefore, Canada has been in a precedent-setting era of history. For the most part, when Canadian citizens have challenged a law against the Charter, the public has accepted the Supreme Court ruling. While the 2014 online survey done by Dying With Dignity, a pro-life organization, suggests that most Canadians favour euthanasia, there is a strong opposing public voice. For example, at the January 30th, 2016 Langley Public Forum, held by local MPs on the subject, several journalists, legal experts, and doctors urged the MPs to disregard the Supreme Court and exercise their rights as elected¬†officials. With a question this important, several Langley intellectuals are arguing that there is need for a national referendum. They are also asserting, for the first time, that the Supreme Court does not have the right to direct an elected Parliament on an issue of this importance (Connelle¬†et al., 2016).¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Another extremely important legal consideration in the drafting of a euthanasia bill is that the rights of patients must be stringently protected regardless of the situation. There are two dangers to be noted regarding patient rights. Let us consider the first. Imagine a wealthy, elderly patient whose family is impatient for inheritance. Families can influence and put pressure on the patient to request euthanasia, making the patient feel like a burden. Moreover, in situations when they have the power of attorney, they can actually decide to end the life of their family member, possibly without that person‚Äôs consent. Although it is difficult to pinpoint explicit cases where family members used euthanasia to deliberately kill a patient, it is more than likely to happen. Similarly, doctors and medical practitioners could also commit euthanasia out of compassion, or financial motives, such as lessening hospital and administrative costs.Smets, Bilsen, Cohen, Rurup, Mortier, and Deliens (2010) state that nearly half of the euthanasia cases in Belgium were not reported and reviewed by the Federal Control and Evaluation Committee. 76.7% of the doctors did not report their cases because they did not perceive their act to be euthanasia. This is appalling, because it means that there is not a shared understanding¬†of what ‚Äúeuthanasia‚ÄĚ is. Thus, in effect, there is no regulation! In fact, 92.2% of these cases were acts of euthanasia as defined by Smets et al. (2010). Furthermore, Smets et al. (2010) found that the unreported Belgian cases were generally handled with less caution than reported cases. For example, a written request was often absent; palliative care experts were not consulted as often; and the lethal drugs were more often administered by a nurse instead of a physician. Based on this evidence, it can be deduced that doctors in those countries are given too much freedom in the process of euthanasia. This is significant because it shows how detrimental a poorly regulated piece of legislation can be.

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