Euthanasia: An Issue Of Quality Of Life

1882 words - 8 pages

It's 1993, Sue Rodriguez is 42 years old; she is diagnosed with fatal amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig's Disease. Her prognosis: steady deterioration of motor function, including speech, mobility, and ability to swallow or breathe, and eventually death in approximately one year. In her final months, she will be completely dependent upon family, medical staff, and machines to maintain her, although she will be conscious of her situation and aware of her chronic condition. Before her infirmity takes hold, she takes her case to court, reaching the Supreme Court of Canada, and requests that when she no longer has the capacity to enjoy life or a meaningful existence that euthanasia be allowed. She declares that the prohibition of assisted suicide is against the Charter of Rights & Freedoms for several reasons, but these claims fall on deaf ears. The courts rule against her and in suffering, she dies in 1994.This controversial case and others like it are the cause of the Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, formed to review the arguments from factions for and against, and provide final recommendations to parliament for legislation. In 1995, they delivered the final report with few suggested modifications to the current laws, and nothing changed. Notwithstanding the committee's decision, change is necessary for our society to maintain the highest quality of life, an endeavour we cherish as Canadians. In a nation that regards above all the rights to choose one's lifestyle, career, religion, and so forth, we must also allow the terminally ill a choice. They deserve the right to pass on peacefully and swiftly, when their pain and suffering become so great that life no longer affords them any joy and there is no hope of recovery.In considering this issue, as any other, we must reflect on our values. Doing so in any liberal society such as ours will inevitably lead to the conclusion that one of our foremost concerns is the respect for autonomy. This notion should establish a resolute right of authority to direct one's individual fate. Implied therein is the fact that as an independent and sound being, a person must be unrestricted in the direction of his or her own body. This means that we cannot allow our value for life to transcend all else; it must not over-rule autonomy because life alone is not enough. In disallowing euthanasia and assisted suicide, our laws contravene the personal wishes of anyone who is mortally sick and wants to die in a humane way. If a person is stripped of any source of pleasure and left with only despair, their choice to end that wretched existence must be met with understanding and reverence. We cannot force a person who has no hope for the future and no will to live to go on existing in a terminal state, simply because certain vital functions have not yet failed them. This goes against our moral and humanitarian duties to honour their intrinsic rights as a human being. Any...

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