October 13, 2004

New Transitory Human Column: Death Vs. Hope

My latest column for Betterhumans has been published:

Death vs. Hope
The pace of medical progress should give patients and doctors pause when considering assisted suicide
Clearly, there is an issue here in desperate need of attention. The Canadian government, with its blanket refusal to allow and monitor assisted suicide, has forced desperate people to take desperate measures. Furthermore, the idea that our government can force us to stay alive—regardless of the particulars of our unique situation—is quite frightening and repugnant, especially when we consider how grossly underfunded health care is for the elderly and for palliative care units across the country.

But just because I defend the right to assisted suicide doesn't mean I have to like it. Given the primitiveness of today's technologies relative to what's on the horizon, I have to concede that in some cases it's a necessary evil. But there is the prospect of significantly advanced medical interventions arriving in the near future—interventions that may impact directly on people living with diseases or irreparable injuries today, and particularly those contemplating suicide. So for healthcare practitioners in countries where voluntary euthanasia is legal, and for those considering its legalization, it's time to act accordingly, including full disclosure to patients. Failing to inform patients of all their options is not only irresponsible, it could also mean the difference between someone choosing to live or die.

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