Monday, 6 June 2016

The World Did Not End Today

It is June 6th. It is the 72nd anniversary of D-Day. It is also the Supreme Court of Canada's deadline for enactment of new legislation governing Physician Assisted Dying. It is ironic that on this day, when so many men gave their lives willingly for my freedom, that I would seek to use that freedom to willingly take my life. Yet that is the very thing about freedom. It does not discriminate. Freedom of conscience, freedom of choice; these are the hallmarks of a truly democratic and free society.

With the passing of this date, Physician Assisted Dying is now completely legal in this country with no restrictions. Anyone who can find a physician to perform the procedure can end his or her own life without restriction. Of course there is that little hiccup in the process; you have to find a physician willing to perform the procedure. Given the absence of a federal framework, I suspect that will be difficult.

Fortunately in Canada we have a combined health care system. While the federal government may may laws about health care, the application of same is a provincial matter. In this circumstance most provinces already have guidelines with respect to Physician Assisted Dying. Nonetheless, one must still find a doctor to do the job. With the clouds in this sky, the mud in this water, the lack of clarity in process, it can put a lot of doctors in a position where doing nothing is better than risking it.

It reminds me of the abortion issue in this regard. There is no law restricting abortion in Canada, nor setting a framework up for the delivery of abortion services. This mean each province has its own rules and regulations, creating a patchwork where access to abortion services has actually gone down in many places, forcing some desperate women to travel out of their province, even out of Canada, for this service, bearing the cost of it themselves.

Many faith based medical institutions refuse to provide the service at all, notwithstanding that it is fully legal and considered a medical matter between doctor and patient. Some provinces have limited coverage; PEI has had no abortion services since 1982. Most of these medical procedures are done in major centers, leaving those in rural settings forced to travel far from home at a difficult time.

That's my worry now about Physician Assisted Dying. If Bill C-14 is not passed, with or without amendment, will we fall into the same grey abyss as we have with abortion services? Will I be forced to go to another province when my time comes, leaving my home behind me? Will I be forced into a hospital, a cold clinical setting, rather than the warmth and safety of my own bed for my last days?

No, the world did not end. It just got more confusing for people like me. It just got more difficult at a time in my life when difficulty is the last thing I need. Physician Assisted Dying is now completely legal. It's also just become a lot more complicated.

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