Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Doctor-Assisted Suicide: Live And Let Die

Gloria Taylor, 64, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) three years ago.

Last week, in a landmark ruling, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge ruled that the current Criminal Court provisions making doctor-assisted suicide illegal are invalid. The case centered around Gloria Taylor, a B.C. woman, and was supported by Lee Carter and husband Hollis Johnson, who obtained a legal doctor-assisted suicide for their mother Kay in Switzerland. They were also supported by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association in their fight.

While declaring the law against euthanasia invalid, the judge suspended that declaration for one year. “During that period of suspension, a constitutional exemption will permit Ms. Taylor the option of physician-assisted death under a number of conditions,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith said.

Taylor, 64, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease) about three years ago. Since the case began in November 2011, Taylor’s condition has deteriorated and she has lost function in her hands. Her voice has also changed and she mostly requires a wheelchair. She has difficulty swallowing. The passions she once had — outings with her granddaughter, visiting family and friends and cooking — are now impossible to do.

Now, there are many arguments against euthanasia. The one that I have heard most often growing up is that the patient and doctor are "playing God." Obviously those who fight for euthanasia do not have a fruitful spiritual life. Right?

Not so fast.

Gloria Taylor is a faithful member of the United Church of Canada and a spiritual woman.

“My belief is that God wants the best for me. And He, or She, certainly doesn’t want me to die in agony,” Taylor said.

Nor does God want her to die, she said, while in a coma, under sedation, unable to communicate.

As the clock winds down on her final months or years on the planet, Taylor believes in heaven and has faith in a merciful God.

“There’s a better world coming. And I’m looking forward to it.”

This writer sees no reason why euthanasia should be legal for those suffering from a terminal illness. Obviously certain stipulations need to be put on it, something which Taylor is prepared for. She will need to undergo an assessment from a psychiatrist and be informed by her doctor about alternatives in medical treatment and palliative care. As for her particular case, her doctor has told her that she has his full support.

“To die screaming at the top of my lungs because the pain is so great, I can’t stand that,” she said. “It’s something I try not to think about. Now I’m thankful I don’t have to fear that kind of death.”

However, Taylor isn't quite ready for death just yet. "I look for the beauty in life. But I'm not afraid of talking about dying. It's part of living. I have no trouble accepting that."