Allan J Gold

Lawyer

Allan J Gold
(514) 849-1621

Suicide as an escape option, it’s the wrong choice. Part 2.

Vol. 10, #9 – June 21, 2018  –  ALLAN GOLD’S BLOG

Gold's Legal Minue


Third blog post of series on Elder Law for seniors and their families, particularly spouses, adult children, caregivers, etc.


BLOG ALERT! We have interrupted the business series to bring you in this space another series, this one on Elder Law, another area of specialization of Attorney Gold.

OPEN LETTER TO READERS FROM A. J. GOLD:

You may or may not know that Elder Law is another area of specialization of mine. The previous blog post was the lead-off on the topic of “Suicide”. As you will recall, the untimely deaths of Kate Spade (aged 55) and Anthony Bourdain (aged 61) greatly affected me. This week, I will deal with assisted suicide, (requested) euthanasia and the like.

Just so you know, their deaths moved me and brought me down. But since I am a fighter down to the tips of my toes and an accidental optimist and since for me, hope is truly eternal, I then picked myself up and got angry – I started writing this two -part blog. Indeed, I was on a tear. So watch out – I have a particular perspective and opinion, and it may go against today’s trend of popular thinking. You see, I respectfully disagree with the legislation enacted as of late. My purpose is that I first can bring issues to the fore and get people to think about them. Legally speaking, my hope is that good cases will be brought so that the courts can illustrate their keeping a tight fist on the law, giving a very restrictive reading thereof. For me, it would be even better if a new school of jurisprudence emerges, which might figuratively “put the ‘euthanasia-assisted suicide’ genie back into the bottle”.. And it would be best if our legislators would see the better idea, and change the law. Now that you’ve been warned, let’s begin.

Truly yours,
A. Gold

Note. A.J. Gold is the author of the following books:

“Elder Law in Canada*ELIC*” It’s a ground breaking (2,500+ page) legal text, acquired by legal libraries, Bar Associations, and Law Schools. (For testimonials, excerpts etc, please visit www.practitionerspress.com)

“Estate Document Professor* EDP* (Part of the www.45pluslifehandbook.com* series), informing Canadians everywhere about greater estate preparedness, covering: Last will and testament (will); Power of attorney (POA); Advance medical directive (living will); Trust; Organ donation consent; Estate Inventory and Distribution Survey(For testimonials, excerpts etc, please visit www.practitionerspress.com)

A. TOPIC & PROPOSITION: “Suicide. As an escape option, it’s the wrong choice. Let’s start making the case against suicide (and all its permeations) together with a few simple steps for its prevention, etc. (Part #2)

Opening statement (Cont’d) in “The Case of We, Everyday People Versus Suicide”.

Continuing on, suicide is not the last word on this wrong path straight out- of- life. Unfortunately, it has several mutations, such as assisted-suicide, doctor-assisted suicide, etc., which have been made legal, in whole or in part, in Quebec, in Canada during the last several years. This comprises voluntary (or requested) euthanasia, which for me, is another misguided road in the same general direction.

We need to fight for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens. To small “l” libertarian thinkers, I say that we are free and have rights, but we also recognize the broad lines of our value-based laws, one of which being “the sanctity of life”, and we comprehend that there are limits to what we can do and we accept rules in the collective interest and/or for the public safety and our well-being.

This said, I exhort the silent majority to take up the mantle and oppose suicide, assisted-suicide, doctor-assisted suicide, etc., voluntary (or requested) euthanasia, and the like which is now legally permitted. Here’s a little speech.

“My fellow citizens, I say suicide is NEVER the answer! But several may say: “Never say never.” I disagree. To those people, I say: “I’m against suicide, whatever the reason or motivation, whatever the circumstance, whichever the method, etc. There’s never a time and place when suicide is alright.” That’s when a few might retort: “Shut up. You don’t comprehend the tragic situation when suicide and voluntary death is justified and reasonable. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ll only understand, if and when, you personally get there.” To them, I answer: “I’m a human being with a brain. I profoundly recognize the terrible tragedy of those severely ill, who have greatly suffered the near complete lack of quality of life, and who wished and found their deaths, by exercising this option. I’m able to grasp the pain felt, the depth of the despair, the tragic dilemma of the patient, etc., but I know the difference between right and wrong. So should you. We, right thinking people, of all religious faiths, with down home family values, need to stand up and say that this is still not the good way. We should say: “It’s really quite simple -it’s just not the right thing to do!” I will explain my reasoning below. And I will not to forget to offer other possible options, which for me, are more correct.

P.S. If I don’t speak up now, the legal situation condoning and allowing suicide, etc, is also on me and you. And of course, you and I are unknowing of the date/time of our respective demise by natural causes That’s why I exhort: “Speak now or forever hold your peace.” You see, tomorrow might be too late. That’s why it’s now or never!”   

A.1 QUOTE(S) OF THE DAY: Death, assisting suicide, voluntary euthanasia

* “A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured.”
― Andrew Coyne

* “Lots of my dying patients say they grow in bounds and leaps, and finish all the unfinished business. But assisting a suicide is cheating them of these lessons, like taking a student out of school before final exams. That’s not love, it’s projecting your own unfinished business”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (Source: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/assisted-suicide)

* “Of all the arguments against voluntary euthanasia, the most influential is the slippery slope: once we allow doctors to kill patients, we will not be able to limit the killing to those who want to die.” Peter Singer

Of all the arguments against voluntary euthanasia, the most influential is the slippery slope: once we allow doctors to kill patients, we will not be able to limit the killing to those who want to die. - Peter Singer

(And yes, he-she really did say that!)   

B. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT …TO ME (YOU)?

First, life is critical to people. It’s the key to everything. You know it and I know it. Indeed, parents and teachers drilled into us that we should be careful and stay safe and sound. That’s why each of us wants to prolong our life to the maximum, all the while, seeing to our self-preservation, staying as far away as possible from a life-ending event.

Second, nearly all people would say that death is a bad eventuality- something unwanted. Accordingly, people in the right frame of mind don’t want to commit suicide; instead .they wish to live for another day and beyond.

Third, you and I both are human and normally have empathy for others. Of course, we want to help our fellow man in need. For me, a person contemplating suicide or voluntary euthanasia would be someone that would fall into this group.

C. ARGUMENT: FACTS, FIGURES, LEGALITIES & COMMENTARY

Here are the straight facts.

First, let’s begin with the formal definition of the word, “suicide,” which reads as follows: “suicide-1 a : the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally … 2 : one that commits or attempts suicide” (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/suicide)

Second, let’s consider “euthanasia.” (also known as “mercy killing”). Here’s a description In the Canadian context. “Euthanasia in Canada in its legal voluntary form is called medically assisted dying (colloquially assisted suicide or death with dignity) and became legal as of June 2016 to end the suffering of terminally ill adults.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthanasia_in_Canada) To elaborate further, let’s review the categories.

Here’s the perspective of one law professor. “There are 3 types of euthanasia, voluntary euthanasia (euthanasia performed with the patient’s consent), non-voluntary euthanasia (where the patient is unable to give their informed consent, for example child euthanasia).and Involuntary euthanasia (which performed on a patient against their will). In this essay, I will merely focus on voluntary euthanasia which is the only acceptable and sensible situation for carrying out euthanasia, as the other two options are not approved by the patient. The most crucial thing we have to consider and follow is the will of patient on grounds that people have no rights to determine others life….” (Source: https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/medical-law/three-types-of-euthanasia-voluntary-euthanasia-non-voluntary-involuntary-euthanasia-law-medical-essay.php)

For even further elaboration, reference is made to the following piece by the BBC: “There are four types of euthanasia: “Euthanasia comes in several different forms, each of which brings a different set of rights and wrongs.

  • Active and passive euthanasia. In active euthanasia a person directly and deliberately causes the patient’s death. …
  • Voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. …
  • Indirect euthanasia. …
  • Assisted suicide.(Source: BBC – Ethics – Euthanasia: Forms of euthanasia)

Here’s the world situation. “As of March 2018, human euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia,[1] Luxembourg, Canada[2] and India.[3] Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, South Korea, Japan, and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Montana, Washington DC,[4]” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_euthanasia) But, I was heartened by the headline from this past May 2018, which read, “Portugal rejects euthanasia law.” An extract of the BBC report is as follows.

“On May 29, 2018 – Portugal’s parliament rejected on Tuesday a bill that would have legalized voluntary euthanasia for terminal patients in the Catholic-majority.

News flash … “Portugal’s parliament has rejected proposals to make euthanasia legal in the country. …

The country’s culture is traditionally Catholic and conservative, and the issue has been extremely divisive. …

Prior to the vote, protests were convened by anti-abortion groups in the country’s capital, Lisbon.

The anti-abortion protesters – mostly from religious groups and schools – demonstrated in front of the parliament in Lisbon.

They chanted “Yes to life, no to euthanasia!” and waved placards saying “We demand palliative care for ALL” and “Euthanasia is a recipe for elder abuse”.,…(Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44294411)

Figures.

Here are some statistics relative to euthanasia in Canada.

“More than 2,000 Canadians have ended their lives legally with the help of a doctor, and most of them were suffering from terminal cancer.

According to the latest report from Health Canada, there were 1,982 medically assisted deaths in the one-year period after it became legal in June 2016. There have been another 167 in Quebec since it was legalized in that province in December 2015, the report said.

The total has been rising faster, with 803 assisted deaths in the first six months after it became legal nationally and 1,179 in the following six months from January to June 2017.

That marks a 47 per cent increase, but it still represents less than one per cent of all deaths in Canada….” ( Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/medical-assistance-death-figures-1.4344267)

Legalities. Respecting euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, here is a short chronology of important dates

*Before 2014, there were several notable events.

* The case of (Sue) Rodriguez c. C.-B. (P.G.) ([1993] 3 R.C.S. 519): In Canada, it was against the law to help a person commit suicide. The key case on topic involved a British Columbia woman dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. She wanted to end her life and needed help due to the limitations imposed by her disease. She instituted proceedings, seeking an acknowledgement of her right to assisted suicide; the petition went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. However, five of nine high court judges upheld the law and ruled that the Charter did not include the right to doctor-assisted suicide.

* The case of R. v. Latimer ([1997] 1 S.C.R. 217): Saskatchewan farmer Robert William Latimer said he believed a pending operation would only worsen the agony of his 12-year-old daughter, Tracy, born with severe cerebral palsy. She was tortured by chronic pain and suffered. Latimer, the so-called “Mercy Killer,” said he killed his daughter out of love. In 1993, Latimer put her into the cab of his pickup with the motor running and subjected her to carbon monoxide poisoning. The accused admitted his acts but said that he wanted to put his severely ill child out of her misery. In the court of first instance, he was found guilty of having committed murder His lawyers argued that the mandatory second-degree murder sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years would be “cruel and unusual” given the circumstances. The public had great sympathy and wondered what would become of Latimer. Along with an impending judgment on the law governing possession of child pornography, the Latimer case was among the court’s most anticipated rulings (Bailey, Sue (Canadian Press), “High court is ready to rule in Latimer case,” The Gazette, Montreal, Saturday, January 13, 2001, pg. A13).

* On Jun 05, 2014, Quebec passes landmark end-of-life-care bill Act respecting end-of-life care, Bill 52, which allows terminally ill patients to choose death (Act respecting end-of-life care chapter S-32.0001). In this regard, the CBC reported: “Sometimes when you are suffering in pain, one hour can feel like one week.… The protection of the vulnerable is reflected in every aspect of this bill,” said Parti Québécois member of the National Assembly Véronique Hivon, who drafted the bill when she was minister of social services under the former PQ government.Bill 52 allows for and outlines under which conditions terminally ill Quebecers can request to receive medical aid in dying. The main indicator for requesting medical aid in dying is “an incurable disease, an incurable illness, which is causing unbearable suffering.”(Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-passes-landmark-end-of-life-care-bill-1.2665834)

* On 2015-02-06, there was a landmark judgment rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada cited as Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) [2015] 1 SCR 331. The high court concluded that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying violates s. 7 of the Charter .Here is a key extract of the judgment. The Court ruled: “…The prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes the right to life, liberty and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. The object of the prohibition is not, broadly, to preserve life whatever the circumstances, but more specifically to protect vulnerable persons from being induced to commit suicide at a time of weakness. Since a total ban on assisted suicide clearly helps achieve this object, individuals’ rights are not deprived arbitrarily. However, the prohibition catches people outside the class of protected persons. It follows that the limitation on their rights is in at least some cases not connected to the objective and that the prohibition is thus overbroad. It is unnecessary to decide whether the prohibition also violates the principle against gross disproportionality….”

* On June 17, 2016, royal assent was given to An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying) Bill C-14

In this regard, Global News reported: “It was described as follows: “…The Trudeau government has taken a much more restrictive approach in C-14, which allows assisted dying only for consenting adults “in an advanced stage of irreversible decline” from a serious and “incurable” disease, illness or disability and for whom natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”(Source: https://globalnews.ca/news/2769877/senators-bow-to-will-of-elected-commons-on-assisted-dying-bill/)

When it comes to the legislation in Canada, here’s a quick overview.

First, I note that murder is illegal. Art. 229 Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46) reads as follows

“229 Culpable homicide is murder

(a) where the person who causes the death of a human being

(i) means to cause his death, or

(ii) means to cause him bodily harm that he knows is likely to cause his death, and is reckless whether death ensues or not;

(b) where a person, meaning to cause death to a human being or meaning to cause him bodily harm that he knows is likely to cause his death, and being reckless whether death ensues or not, by accident or mistake causes death to another human being, notwithstanding that he does not mean to cause death or bodily harm to that human being; or

(c) where a person, for an unlawful object, does anything that he knows or ought to know is likely to cause death, and thereby causes death to a human being, notwithstanding that he desires to effect his object without causing death or bodily harm to any human being.R.S., c. C-34, s. 212.

Second, I refer to the “Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms” as part of the Constitution Act, 1982 (80); an extract is reproduced as follows

“PART I
CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:

Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms

Marginal note:Rights and freedoms in Canada

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Life, liberty and security of person

7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

Third, I refer to the “Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, CQLR c C-12; an extract is reproduced as follows

“CHAPTER I
FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS AND RIGHTS
1982, c. 61, s. 1.

1. Every human being has a right to life, and to personal security, inviolability and freedom.
He also possesses juridical personality. 1975, c. 6, s. 1; 1982, c. 61, s. 1.

2. Every human being whose life is in peril has a right to assistance.
Every person must come to the aid of anyone whose life is in peril, either personally or calling for aid, by giving him the necessary and immediate physical assistance, unless it involves danger to himself or a third person, or he has another valid reason. 1975, c. 6, s. 2.

4. Every person has a right to the safeguard of his dignity, honour and reputation. 1975, c. 6, s. 4.
5. Every person has a right to respect for his private life.1975, c. 6, s. 5.
6. Every person has a right to the peaceful enjoyment and free disposition of his property, except to the extent provided by law. 1975, c. 6, s. 6.

48. Every aged person and every handicapped person has a right to protection against any form of exploitation.
Such a person also has a right to the protection and security that must be provided to him by his family or the persons acting in their stead. 1975, c. 6, s. 48; 1978, c. 7, s. 113.”

Fourth, I note that counseling or aiding suicide is illegal subject to new exceptions. Art. 241 Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46)

“Counselling or aiding suicide

241 (1) Everyone is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years who, whether suicide ensues or not,

counsels a person to die by suicide or abets a person in dying by suicide; or
aids a person to die by suicide.

Marginal note:Exemption for medical assistance in dying

(2) No medical practitioner or nurse practitioner commits an offence under paragraph (1)(b) if they provide a person with medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.2.

Marginal note:Exemption for person aiding practitioner

(3) No person is a party to an offence under paragraph (1)(b) if they do anything for the purpose of aiding a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to provide a person with medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.2.

Marginal note:Exemption for pharmacist

(4) No pharmacist who dispenses a substance to a person other than a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner commits an offence under paragraph (1)(b) if the pharmacist dispenses the substance further to a prescription that is written by such a practitioner in providing medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.2.

Marginal note:Exemption for person aiding patient

(5) No person commits an offence under paragraph (1)(b) if they do anything, at another person’s explicit request, for the purpose of aiding that other person to self-administer a substance that has been prescribed for that other person as part of the provision of medical assist¬ance in dying in accordance with section 241.2.

Marginal note:Clarification

(5.1) For greater certainty, no social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or other health care professional commits an offence if they provide information to a person on the lawful provision of medical assistance in dying.

Marginal note:Reasonable but mistaken belief

(6) For greater certainty, the exemption set out in any of subsections (2) to (5) applies even if the person invoking the exemption has a reasonable but mistaken belief about any fact that is an element of the exemption.

Marginal note:Definitions

(7) In this section, medical assistance in dying, medical practitioner, nurse practitioner and pharmacist have the same meanings as in section 241.1.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 241;R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 7;2016, c. 3, s. 3

Commentary. Here’s my point of view on this subject.

When it comes to assisted suicide, doctor-assisted suicide and (voluntary) euthanasia, I do NOT like where we are now and perhaps, because we’re on that proverbial “slippery slope, where we’re going in the future. In contrast, I much prefer the way we were. Indeed, I’m nostalgic for an earlier time, when the law in Canada, clearly protected life more fully. While I admit that the law then wasn’t perfect, it worked reasonably well and we correctly stuck to our principles.

More particularly, I am dismayed by Quebec‘s Dying with dignity law and Canada’s medically assisted dying law. I disagree with death, be it by suicide or with the assistance of another person, or at the hands of a doctor, being offered up as reasonable options for a proper -thinking person. My starting point is that a Canadian citizen does not have an entitlement to death. Legislators were misguided in elevating a death wish to the object of a right to be ensconced as a lofty principle of law. Furthermore, I respectfully dissent from court judgments such as the Carter decision, which in my opinion, seemingly gave precedence to libertarianism over life sanctification. I see all these good people stretching the law making it contort in an extreme fashion in order to arrive at the legalization of assisted suicide, physician- assisted suicide and (voluntary) euthanasia. Here are some of my arguments in support of my proposition.

First, life is of the highest importance for Mankind; and its preservation and protection is at the heart of our values. It is known as “the inviolability or sanctity of life.” Wikipedia explains it as follows. “In religion and ethics, inviolability or sanctity of life is a principle of implied protection regarding aspects of sentient life which are said to be holy, sacred, or otherwise of such value that they are not to be violated. This can be applied to both animals and humans, for instance in religions that practice Ahimsa, as both are seen as holy and worthy of life. The concept of inviolability is an important tie between the ethics of religion and the ethics of law, as each seeks justification for its principles as based on both purity and natural concept, as well as in universality of application.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanctity_of_life) Indeed, “the inviolability or sanctity of life.” is our most basic assumption. It’s the penultimate principle at the center of our system of laws and the rule of law.

Second, one cannot kill another human being. That is murder and it’s against the law. And that has not changed. But nowadays, an exception has been made to this blanket prohibition for a physician who kills. Indeed, a doctor has been given a license to kill. For me, apart from self-defence, being on the battlefield, etc., no one has the liberty to take a life.

Third, there’s a little thing called the ‘Hippocratic Oath’. It is an oath “historically taken by physicians. It is one of the most widely known of Greek medical texts. In its original form, it requires a new physician to swear, by a number of healing gods, to uphold specific ethical standards. The Oath is the earliest expression of medical ethics in the Western world, establishing several principles of medical ethics which remain of paramount significance today. These include the principles of medical confidentiality and non-maleficence.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocratic_Oath) And of course, there is the phrase “First do no harm”, which binds MDs in the practice of their profession. In my mind, it’s impossible to square the killing of a patient, yet still be in keeping with the prohibition against doing harm. To equate the act of murder to a medical treatment is a distortion. To say that death is not harmful is beyond reason. All of this just does not compute!

Fourth, suicide is wrong. That is where a person terminates his or her own life. It’s not technically against the law; but by and large, it is perceived at most, as an abomination or at least, something very undesirable. Of course, around the kitchen table and sitting at our school desks, we were not taught that suicide is good. And when a child unfortunately passed away, I remember hearing someone saying: “It’s not the proper order of things for parents to bury a child.” This is due to the widely-held belief that while death is a part of a life, it should come only after one has lived a long life well into old age. To end this point, I assert that a suicide victim falls into the trap covered by the expression, “Cutting off the nose to spite the face”. It is an expression to describe “a needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to a problem: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face” is a warning against acting out of pique, or against pursuing revenge in a way that would damage oneself more than the object of one’s anger.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutting_off_the_nose_to_spite_the_face) , So if you please, keep your nose on your great face!

Fifth, perceiving death as one’s only option is closed- minded, unseeing of the bigger picture. For me, there is another way for people, dealing with permanent disability from bodily injury, facing an incurable, debilitating disease or being at the end stage of a fatal illness, suffering a terrible quality of life. While some want death to free themselves from their plight, there is another approach (found below in the “Tips & Recommendations” section), which could be taken by these people. And instead of death, I contend that these people are rightfully entitled to expanded Home Care services, Hospice facilities, Palliative Care programs, etc. You see, such could make their lives better. I understand that it’s a big challenge for governments to make all of this available to the entire population, but it’s the true solution and also the right thing to do!

P.S. I contend that proponents of assisted suicide and the rest, cleverly wooed the public opinion over. While the word, “suicide” would likely evoke a strong negative reaction, disinclination dissipated when coupled with phrases such as “lack of quality of life”, “pain & suffering” and “dying with dignity.” And when they offered images of life situations seemingly unbearable and frightful end of life scenarios, it then became more palatable to kill yourself. And even murder might be rationalized if sugar-coated, with the oxymoron of “mercy killing”.) Indeed, words matter!

D. TIPS & RECOMMENDATIONS

0. KNOW that the welfare of the elderly is not only the job of family- it bears upon all of us. To be human, walking the right path, we must never be onlookers, not getting involved. Instead, we must intervene for seniors and protect them.

1. ASPIRE to be a ‘glass half full person’ if dealing with a total, permanent disability from bodily injury, or if faced with an incurable, debilitating disease or being at the end stage of a fatal illness. (N.B. This is when and where “A person views the situation optimistically or hopefully. For example, Betty was not upset by the last-minute change, since it gave her extra time—she always sees the glass as half full. The opposite—that is, the pessimistic view—is put as the glass is half empty. Also see bright side.”(Source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/glass-is-half-full-)

1.1 THINK of others and how you can help and make a difference. Sometimes, on finding a new purpose, the drawbacks of your imperfect life may seem to become smaller in proportion.

1.2 BECOME an advocate for expanded Home Care services, Hospice facilities, Palliative Care programs, etc.

2. TAKE note of (and EMULATE) great people, who have been remarkable in the face of great adversity: A few notables are as follows.

2.1 “Stephen William Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA (8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018) was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author, who was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge at the time of his death.[16][17] He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009….Hawking had a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis “ALS” or Lou Gehrig’s disease) that gradually paralysed him over the decades. Even after the loss of his speech, he was still able to communicate through a speech-generating device, initially through use of a hand-held switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle. He died on 14 March 2018 at the age of 76.”” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Hawking)

2.2 “Christopher D’Olier Reeve (September 25, 1952 – October 10, 2004) was an American actor. He achieved stardom for his acting achievements. In particular, he is best known for his motion picture portrayal of the classic DC comic book superhero Superman, beginning with the acclaimed Superman (1978), for which he won a BAFTA Award….On May 27, 1995, Reeve was left quadriplegic after being thrown from a horse during an equestrian competition in Culpeper, Virginia. He used a wheelchair and required a portable ventilator for the rest of his life. He lobbied on behalf of people with spinal cord injuries and for human embryonic stem cell research, founding the Christopher Reeve Foundation and co-founding the Reeve-Irvine Research Center.”(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Reeve)

Comfort care

3. TAKE your medications exactly as prescribed.

4. CONSULT a family doctor regularly and continually ask for updated advice/directions respecting medications; and ADVISE your MD if there are any side effects or no improvement of symptoms within four to six weeks.

5. PUT in place monitoring (by close relatives, friends, neighbors or home care workers from CLSC) of your in-take of drugs.

6. DON’T ROMANTICIZE “natural” materials as being unconditionally good; and REFRAIN from using a product which is: (a) Unsafe or unhealthy, although natural, but without all ingredients and workings being known; (b) Offered as a miracle cure, but still unproven

Palliative care

7. START as early as possible, once you’re diagnosed with a fatal disease, an on-going dialogue with close family; and more precisely, (a) Raise the subject of death with family members and this, in order to face dying together; it being added: (i). That many children learn of their parents’ deaths unaware of their wishes. In my belief, the resulting family conflicts could have been avoided through facing death candidly. (ii). That discussing dying is painful and frequently avoided in conversations between parents and children. However, being prepared and sharing decisions about these sensitive topics can put one at ease and may prevent unanticipated problems.

8. ASSIST family members by: (a) Conveying the message that grieving is normal and since each family does it in its own way, explaining that there isn’t a right or wrong way; (b) Encouraging open and honest communication; 9. RECOGNIZE that your caregiver: (a) Is bearing a great burden and anguish and is generally over-tired from being on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week; (b) Suffers from much stress and worry from this all-consuming role; (c) Has had to cope with such emotions as anger, due in part from a changed lifestyle and uncertainty as to, if and when, the patient may revive and possibly be placed; (d) Feels helpless, ungrounded and uncertain, with an impending transition and then with lack of purpose, returning to a pre-care-giver existence.

10. SEEK out an attending physician, who:

(a) EMBRACES hospice as a natural extension of the health care community, this sooner rather than later. (N.B. These are doctors who: (i). TAKE a clear-eyed, decidedly unsentimental look at how we die; (ii). GO beyond pain control; (iii). DEMONSTRATE tolerance, patience and empathy; and (iv). WORK with family.)

(b) INDIVIDUALIZES palliative care similarly as in active disease treatment. (N.B. The dosage of narcotics and sedatives should be tailored to sufficiently ease a patient’s pain and suffering associated with a critical illness. Just so you know, when determining the initial dose of narcotics and sedatives in palliation, it’s good practice for a doctor to consider the following: (i). Patient’s previous narcotic exposure since tolerance develops quickly; (ii). Patient’s age; (iii). Previous alcohol or drug use and abuse; (iv). Underlying illness; (v). Underlying organ dysfunction; (vi). Patient’s current level of consciousness/sedation; (vii). Level of available psychological/spiritual support; (viii). Patients’ wishes regarding sedation, noting that the amount of needed drugs varies on an individual basis; etc.

E. CLOSING –LEGAL MATTERS!

In closing, while I’m sure you know where I stand, but just to make sure, let me say: “Life is in the air and it’s my steadfast belief that each person should strive to breath it ….always, until the very last breath possible in his or her natural life!” And you can quote me on that!

Furthermore, as to conclusions, I submit:

* That when it comes to suicide, assisted suicide, doctor- assisted suicide or (voluntary) euthanasia and the like, I am against all of it. To those good-meaning people who see them as viable options, making allowance for those poor souls with an earnest desire for escape from total, permanent disability from bodily injury, or if faced with an incurable, debilitating disease or being at the end stage of a fatal illness, I say: “I get it …these people don’t want to die hard! Instead, they’re looking for a ‘good death’: But, I urge it’s a terrible mirage!

*That suicide is not a misdeed on the part of the dying person. Instead, it can be better explained as the default of society at large, which is the perpetrator, failing the victim in his or her time of great need.

* That in this regard, we as a society can and must do better -it would be good start if we expanded Home Care services, Hospice facilities, Palliative Care programs, etc. And on a personal level as well, we should make it a goal of the highest, pressing importance, for clear – thinking people everywhere, to join the war against suicide in all of its types and forms; and for heaven’s sake, this with hope of winning some key battles, and to turn the tide of the war. More precisely, to do this, each of us in the silent majority, should engage with any person in our circle of family and friends, suffering a life that seems unspeakable, and a pain that is excruciating, who appears to be receding from people/life, and possibly at the precipice. We should commence a conversation and then get him or her some help. Furthermore, we need to focus on improving the quality of life, with comfort and/or palliative care, engaging with these people, striving to help them see that life can be meaningful and worthwhile. That’s the right purpose and focus.

And last but not least, legally speaking, I know that certain laws have been passed and judgments have been rendered. While I do not agree with them, and besides offering a vociferous opposition, I believe that it’s our job now to be vigilant looking for cases to make new law, hopefully opening a school of jurisprudence, at best putting the suicide genie back into the bottle, or at least, seeking a tight interpretation, limited to the current area of application and restricted only to those instances where all the criteria is met. And if you’ve been reading this blog series, you know that legal matters! And the law can be a part of the plan going forward!   

F. SENIOR LITE SPOT: There’s absolutely nothing funny about getting old (& dying) , except…

* Assisted suicide. “One day there was a 97 year old woman, who wanted to commit suicide but unfortunately she did not know where her heart was.” (Source: jokegalaxy.blogspot.com/2007/10/assisted-suicide.html

* “Never go a doctor whose office plants have died.” Erma Bombeck (Source: https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1&biw=1024&bih=639&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=JzUlW-uHI4W05gKHlr24Aw&q=funny+quotes+medically+assisted+suicide+j&oq=funny+quotes+medically+assisted+suicide+j&gs_l=img.3…82606.93194.0.93574.14.14.0.0.0.0.150.1362.10j4.14.0….0…1c.1.64.img..0.0.0….0.PrjpU5rUFIQ#imgrc=7HbwTRyKQMZBdM)

* “They asked me what I thought about euthanasia. I said I’m more concerned about the adults.” Jay London (Source: https://www.google.com/search?q=funny+euthanasia+quotes&client=firefox-b-1&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=Bre_2oMk33bkPM%253A%252CIE6PykUSDzrkrM%252C_&usg=__DOjlZKgWycqDSs3ztPIrX99fVDE%3D&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjwzYeQytjbAhVMuVkKHRu5BwcQ9QEITjAG#imgrc=FeTQflQfFHiE_M🙂
(And yes, you really have to be a certain age to appreciate this.)   

P.S. But there is also this unfunny joke of Jeremy-Paxman: “I would like to invite you all to join my crowd-funded project for franchises of Dignitas clinics. ‘We will have them on every street corner. It would be rather like Sweeney Todd’s pie shop and will be disguised as tea shops. ‘You will take Aunty Doris there and drop her off and she will say “see you next Tuesday” and you’ll say “probably”.’Jeremy Paxman (Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2726019/We-need-Dignitas-corner-Jeremy-Paxman-angers-elderly-euthanasia-jokes-stand-comedy-debut.html) Commentary: This is not just a bad euthanasia joke -it’s in poor taste and offensive. But more, in a back- handed way, it denotes unwittingly the danger of relatives using legally authorized killing in order to do away with loved ones )

G. PREVIEW OF NEXT IN THE BLOG SERIES: Pensions (& Retirement Income)

Do you think about your retirement? Do you stress over your pensions, be it to be government, company, etc.? Or are you concerned about the revenue of an elderly loved one. If so, you’re in luck. Next week, I will write a bog post on Pensions (& Retirement Income). Interested? See you next time.*   

H. NOTICE – CAUTION -DISCLAIMER

The material provided herein is of a general nature, strictly for informational purposes. The interpretation and analysis is not to be misapplied to a personal situation with a particular set of facts. Under no circumstances, are the herein suggestions and tips, intended to bring a reader to the point of acting or not acting, but instead, the hope is that they are to be a cause for pause and reflection. It is specifically declared that this content is not to be a replacement of or substitution for legal or any other appropriate advice. To the contrary, for more information on these presents, related subjects or any other questions, it is the express recommendation of the author that everyone seek out and consult a qualified professional or competent adviser.   

* ©/TM 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 Allan Gold, Practitioners’ Press Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED