Euthanasia: An Issue of Quality of Life

Essay by r__tellCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2006

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It's 1993, Sue Rodriguez is 42 years old; she is diagnosed with fatal amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig's Disease. Her prognosis: steady deterioration of motor function, including speech, mobility, and ability to swallow or breathe, and eventually death in approximately one year. In her final months, she will be completely dependent upon family, medical staff, and machines to maintain her, although she will be conscious of her situation and aware of her chronic condition. Before her infirmity takes hold, she takes her case to court, reaching the Supreme Court of Canada, and requests that when she no longer has the capacity to enjoy life or a meaningful existence that euthanasia be allowed. She declares that the prohibition of assisted suicide is against the Charter of Rights & Freedoms for several reasons, but these claims fall on deaf ears. The courts rule against her and in suffering, she dies in 1994.

This controversial case and others like it are the cause of the Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, formed to review the arguments from factions for and against, and provide final recommendations to parliament for legislation. In 1995, they delivered the final report with few suggested modifications to the current laws, and nothing changed. Notwithstanding the committee's decision, change is necessary for our society to maintain the highest quality of life, an endeavour we cherish as Canadians. In a nation that regards above all the rights to choose one's lifestyle, career, religion, and so forth, we must also allow the terminally ill a choice. They deserve the right to pass on peacefully and swiftly, when their pain and suffering become so great that life no longer affords them any joy and there is no hope of recovery.

In considering this issue, as any other,