Saturday, February 7, 2015

Death with Dignity - Our Right Our Choice

Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General 

RE: Supreme Court Decision – Death with Dignity

I am relieved at the Supreme Court decision to allow us to manage our own life’s end. It is fundamental that we, as free people, retain the right of dominion over mind and body. One always wishes to live forever, we all come to the end, and when we do, we should be permitted to manage it.

I have advocated for this approach aggressively over the years. I sat through my mother’s death; we removed the intravenous and watched her die for 3 days. It was an utterly stupid circumstance, her death was a forgone conclusion, we were forced to sit, watch her suffer and wait for the inevitable; this is emblematic of “palliative” practices in play now.  I loved my mother, I cared for her without government help, and then I had the government between her and I in her passing, she suffered for no reason – her fate and the fate of millions who have suffered rests on the heads of people who have distorted the compassion that Christ himself taught us.

The management of one’s own life end is an extremely personal matter, the state has no role to play here, save to ensure that people’s wishes are respected. Much of the challenge with ceding choice to the individual on this matter emanates from an archaic interpretation of Christian Theology. The Christian moral complex has served us well in most regards, where it is failing us or where it bumps up against freedom of choice, the state is obligated to side with the individual – that is what a secular democracy requires.

The constant refrain against death with dignity from the people with disabilities is unwarranted. One understands their concern in the context of government conduct in the past, that is to say, programs like state sanctioned sterilization terrify us all. The same progress that is facilitating the choice this court decision provides, has quelled any inclination that any one rational actor might have in treating the disabled in a way that is untoward. The concern expressed by many in the disabled community with regard to the systemization of their demise is grossly insulting to us all, or to suggest that we would stand by while people were encouraged to end their lives is equally insulting. The fears are unfounded, we are becoming increasingly more concerned that the disabled community finds its way into society, the whole trend in Canadian society is to become more inclusive.  This group’s fear should in no way affect my choice to end my life as I see fit.

There seems to be a generalized mindset from opponents to the right to choose to end one’s life that somehow the government will, or other actors, begin to take control of that choice. They fear monger about the systemized euthanizing of our old people or the disabled. These are irrational comments, we are effecting a state of CHOICE, the only way someone can have their life ended is by choice. These irrational arguments and fear mongering emanate from the desire to impose a single moral complex on the entire population, the state has no place in the imposition of morality; morality is best dealt with in the civil society. The sanctity of life is in no way diminished by extending the choice to people to have a dignified end, or an end of their choice, the quality life itself however, is bolstered.  

The key element of “regulation” or law in this matter is to ensure that CHOICE resides with the individual in totality. This must be ensured by government, the only means that a Doctor’s assistance to end life is rendered is by the direction of the affected individual OR by a written directive in the form of a living will.  It is critical that this is never a “medical” decision, or a decision of medical personal or a government representative, this must always be isolated from the state and to the individual. By way of example, should a ward of the state fall into a circumstance that is terminal and be rendered unable to offer clear direction to the state or is deemed absent of capacity to choose, then all the conventions for the preservation of life or hitherto conventions of palliative care must be applied. Provisioning this, loud and clear, in the legislation sees to the liberty of the competent and addresses the concerns of the frail and disabled.  

The days of government managing the personal lives of the populace are waning, the Canadian population is generally progressively inclined, well-educated and very competent – they are best suited to run their own lives. I adhere in the main to the Christian moral complex, which is what shaped me; education and study have informed any choices I make outside that complex – that is my right and my choice. Others may make choices to live under a different code perhaps, which is their choice and their right. One has to have confidence in their belief system’s validity to accept the presence of another under Canada’s dominion, it is theological insecurity that is fueling opposition.
We are a secular democracy as opposed to a theocracy; we need to work to support that in the context of a morality neutral public square, that is to say, the public square needs to facilitate the innate right to maintain a given morality when exposed to the public square. By ensuring the choice to end one’s life is resides solely with the individual, we ensure the public square is neutral – my making a choice in private has no influence or effect on others. This is the spirit of Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is supported by subsequent court process, that our actions absent threat of harm, or harm to others, are permitted.
Please encourage your counterparts in government to be courageous in forwarding the right to hold dominion of one’s mind and body, it is the most fundamental element of human existence, and it is the most sacred responsibility of governance.   

Thank you your work and leadership thus far.

Kind Regards,

Neil E. Thomson
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