Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Canadian Freethinker magazine editorial says dying with dignity is blocked by "archaic morality"

An editorial written for the current (fall) issue of Canadian Freethinker magazine bears quite importantly on the current discussions about the right to die with dignity. The issue , never far beneath the surface, has bubbled up this past week with the video posted by Dr. Donald Low, made eight days before he died of a brain tumor, appealing for a fundamental change that would allow people of sound minds but failing bodies to choose the time of their departure.

Freethinker contributor Doug Thomas writes about accompanying a friend, who suffered from multiple, debilitating and terminal illnesses, to Switzerland, there to receive the help from the organization Dignitas to die as and when he wished.

As I write this, I have just returned from a trip to Switzerland made specifically to help my friend, Henry Rempel, complete his life with dignity. He had known for a long time that he would spend his final days helpless to carry out the normal basic functions we all take for granted. Since he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, prostrate cancer and COPD, his concerns had come true.... 
Do not for a minute think this was an act of surrender on his part. He soldiered on for almost eighteen months, after receiving that green light, wringing the most out of visits from friends and his family, especially his six-year-old grandson. In fact, one of the factors that persuaded him to take the final steps was that if he waited much longer, the grandfather his grandson would remember would not be the smiling, pleasant human being he still was, but a non-responsive hulk, slumped in a wheelchair.
Thomas details the trip in some detail -- including the uncomfortable complications of flying someone so ill across the Atlantic in a trip that totalled 17 hours --  through to his friend drifting off into a coma and dying, holding onto his daughter's hand, and concludes
The only problem I have with the process is that it [is] so complicated. That Henry had to endure what must have been a extremely uncomfortable journey to Switzerland to die in a strange room at considerable financial expense is simply the result of Canada having an archaic law on its books. That law is one of the impositions of archaic morality on the rest of us and it must be overturned so that we can all enjoy the fundamental right to complete our lives with dignity.



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