Dr. David Amies: Reflections on Quebec's historic day

In a special post for Dying With Dignity Canada's blog, Dr. David Amies offers his reflections as Quebec becomes the first province in Canada to offer compassionate choice to patients at end of life.

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Physician assisted dying is legal in the province of Quebec.

This represents a first for Canada. The Temple Veil has not split; Zeus has not directed thunderbolts at the politicians in Quebec; Mount Etna has not erupted and the sun looks set to rise in the upcoming mornings.

Quebec is not entirely out of the woods yet for further legal challenges are planned. Federal legislation on assisted dying is in the works but the new government of Canada under the Liberals is applying to the Supreme Court for six months extension to their original ruling. Many different parcels of lawyers right across the country are going to make a pretty penny during the next few months while the dust settles on this matter.

There are, of course, many interested parties. Regardless of any court ruling, religious folk are likely to continue to object to the very idea for they would regard such human devised laws as being contrary to God's word. They forget, that to the nonreligious, such concepts are meaningless.

Physicians, in the main, are reluctant to take part in the process of helping certain patients to bring their lives to an end. Such doctors maintain that their role is to preserve life rather than to take it. Some of them consider that palliative care has progressed sufficiently to render assisted dying unnecessary. I think they take an overoptimistic view of their abilities and powers.

As far as we know, the majority of ordinary citizens are in favour of physician assisted dying as long as reasonable safeguards are in place. Provincial governments and colleges of physicians and surgeons are working hard to construct enabling legislation and rules and regulations.

Dr. David Amies

Dr. David Amies is a retired physician in Lethbridge, Alta.

However, in Quebec, from Dec. 10, a terminally sick and anguished patient, for whom life no longer has any meaning or pleasure, can apply to a sympathetic doctor for help in bringing that life to an end. It is my hope and belief that such circumstances do not mean that civilization in this large and varied country is under threat.

Furthermore, I suspect that once the first few cases are concluded with empathy and care, there will be an increasing level of support. Physicians and the general public will come to accept that medical skill does not have all the answers and that some competent people can and will decide for themselves that they have had enough.

Dr. David Amies is a retired doctor in Lethbridge, Alta., and a member of DWD Canada's Physicians Advisory Council.


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