Tom Walkom has a must read column in today's Toronto Star. The contentious debate over Bill C-14, he writes, is about much more than the right to die. It's also about the right to live:
If government has any role in this life and death matter it is not to ensure that as many as possible exercise their right to die. Rather it is to create conditions that would allow as many as possible to keep on living.
The right to death is not the same as other rights. Unlike, say, the right to free speech, it is irrevocable.
Those exercising free speech rights can reverse themselves later. Those exercising death rights cannot. Death is a one-way ticket.Canadian society recognizes this when it comes to suicide. Suicide is seen as a tragedy. We devote medical resources to psychiatrists and others in the hope that they can talk people out of suicide. We involuntarily commit to hospital those deemed at risk of harming themselves.In Toronto, special fences exist along the Bloor-Danforth viaduct to deter would-be suicides from hurling themselves into the Don Valley.In short, while suicide is legal in Canada, society does everything it can to convince those weary of life from taking this extreme measure.
Moreover, he points out, the debate occurs as Canada wrestles with how to deal with an aging population:
In Belgium, according to government statistics, 75 per cent of those who take advantage of voluntary euthanasia are between the ages of 60 and 89.It is no coincidence that Canada’s debate over voluntary euthanasia comes as this country struggles over how to pay for the costs associated with an aging population. We may decry death, but it is the cheapest solution.
Palliative care is not cheap. But I watched my mother die in palliative care a little over a year ago; and I was impressed with how she was treated in her final days. Jim Morrison wrote -- quite rightly -- that nobody gets out of here alive. That fact is undeniable. The debate is really about how we take our leave.