How can hospitals and doctors be so cruel? 

W. Gifford-Jones MD —

  Years ago I wrote that “The problems of the world are caused by supposedly intelligent people who are largely fools”. I haven’t changed my mind as I look at the problems surrounding the new law that allows Medical Aid in Dying (MAID). I will never understand how some hospitals and doctors can be so cruel to those who cry out for mercy.      

          Recently, an 84 year old man, a patient in a Vancouver hospital, was afflicted with failing kidneys, heart disease and spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal causing pressure on sensitive cord tissue. Aware of his agonizing future, he asked his doctor to apply for MAID. But Catholic hospitals and some non-Catholic facilities do not allow doctors or nurse practitioners to assist patients in dying.

          So what happened? He had to be transferred to another hospital. This is difficult for anyone near the end of life, particularly if you’re in severe pain.

          His daughter reported, “My Dad yelled out in agony as they lifted him from his bed to the stretcher. He cried out at every single bump in the ambulance.”  I, and some legal experts, believe that no one should have to endure such an experience.

            A lawyer recently argued that if hospitals were funded by public funds to practice religion, they would have the right to make religious decisions. But tax dollars are provided for health care. Hospitals, therefore, have no right to refuse MAID. And if they continue to do so they should lose public funding.

          But some doctors also refuse to be associated with this procedure. And even if there are willing physicians, obtaining the necessary legal documentation creates another hurdle. So, being able to die the way you want to, is not easy. But why must it be so difficult?

          In 2001 the Dutch parliament became the first in the world to legalize euthanasia for those suffering from incurable disease and unbearable suffering. As you would expect, this liberal approach has been criticized by those who oppose assisted death.

          Now, Dutch authorities have gone a step further, and I can already hear critics howling. They will charge that this latest act proves Holland is now well on the road to moral ruin.

          What have they done? They believe that MAID does not meet the needs of all people. In effect, they state there is more to suffering than dying from terminal cancer pain or other debilitating diseases. And that older people have a right to end their lives when faced with suffering they find unbearable.

          How many of us have seen the utter despair of a man or woman when a partner of 60 years suddenly dies? Or, witnessed the lonely, forlorn, look of those in nursing homes void of family and friends. They endure a life without meaning, waiting for it to end. Surely, these people have a right to MAID if they desire it. After all, it’s their life, not ours.

          I’ll never see this final act of mercy become law in his country. For instance, in Canada, lawmakers won’t even agree to the Advanced Consent. One that would allow those with early dementia to sign a Living Will, stating they wish to die when their brain is no longer functioning.

          Moreover, the current law states that extreme suffering is not always sufficient grounds for MAID. This means stroke victims and others could linger for years before being “reasonably” close to death. How could anyone pass such asinine legislation?

          I believe it borders on criminality to move dying patients to another hospital for MAID. To me, it is also a medical sin for doctors to turn a blind eye to this request when it’s their prescribed role to end terminal suffering. Freedom of Choice should determine who qualifies for MAID, not a hospital, doctor or a court of law. 

           It’s also unbelievable that the government has removed the charitable tax status of Dying with Dignity. So now this organization lacks funding to rectify this legislation. If you share their view send a donation to 55 Eglinton Ave. East, Suite 802, Toronto, Ontario, M4P 1G8. 

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