To The Editor,

Canadians should have the option to receive all forms of medical care, including assisted dying. In this case, the taboo nature of death could be overcome. As a society, we have become disconnected from the process of dying.

In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that, “the prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes upon the right to life, liberty, and security of the person.” People who live with terminal illness and unbearable pain should be allowed the right to die. In June 2016, Canadian legislation (Bill C-14) established criteria and procedures for the provision of medical assistance in dying (MAID) under certain specified conditions.

Over 4,000 Canadians have chosen medical assistance to end their lives since the practice became legal in Canada three years ago.

In the first half of the 20th century, many people died in their home where they were cared for by family members. Death was also a community event. After people died, they were often laid to rest in their homes. Family, friends, and neighbours would visit to support one another and to pay their respects. In many communities, especially in rural areas, family members would build a wooden coffin.

Death was a part of everyday life, not a mystery. As society became industrialized, concerns grew about public health, specifically about the spreading of disease. As a result, final care of family members was then moved to other places such as in a hospital. Visitation was also removed from the home due to the increase of funeral parlours.

Many people use constitutional arguments to support MAID, however, there are also three main arguments in opposition. Firstly, religious opposition: human life is sacred. Secondly, the slippery-slope theory: it might be all too easily extended to those who are disabled, mentally ill, or ‘tired’ of life. Finally, medico-ethical arguments: the Hippocratic Oath, which prohibit taking the life of a patient.

Dying in Canada and our ideas, beliefs, and expectations regarding the end of our lives, have evolved substantially and they continue to evolve. No matter what stance a person takes on medical assistance in dying, the more we talk about it, and the more supports we make for individuals and families involved with the dying process, the more we will create a culture where both living and dying are valued.

Matt Barter

St. John’s

Matt Barter