I am often surprised at the number of different events occurring each week that can pose a challenge to provide a summary given the limited space available in my weekly columns. One topic that I believe is of interest and concern to all Canadians is last week’s Supreme Court Ruling striking down Canada’s existing law against assisted suicide. This is without question a subject that many Canadians have very strong feelings about. It is not uncommon as a Member of Parliament to hear a diversity of views on subjects of this nature. One such citizen who took the time to contact me has presented some serious concerns that I believe we should all be mindful of.
The citizen in question suffers from a very severe physical disability and opposes the legalization of assisted suicide. The reason for this opposition is not based on faith, nor a previous encounter with suicide or hope that a miracle cure will be discovered. The concern from this particular disabled citizen is guilt. As a severely disabled individual, this person relies very heavily on family to serve as specialized care givers. As many will know, providing specialized and end of life care for a severally disabled loved one can be a challenging experience. In this case the constituent who contacted me shared a great love and appreciation for family members in making great sacrifices to help them live a better quality of life.
The concern of this severely disable constituent is that legalized suicide would create an easy option for this person to end their own life with the assistance of a willing doctor. This person expressed a strong will to live. They have no desire to die. Where assisted suicide is a concern to this person is over a profound level of guilt. This guilt comes from the significant ongoing efforts of family members in providing specialized care. As legalized suicide could end the need for that care by not pursuing suicide, this individual would feel intense guilt that they are imposing on loved one’s when another option is available. Suffice to say this was a difficult and emotional conversation and I apologize in advance that I am not relaying this concern in the manner it truly deserves.
I raise this point today as it illustrates a situation of a severely disabled person who does not wish to die but has admitted the guilt of not pursuing suicide to relieve family members from serving as care givers potentially would result in a reluctant suicide. This is not a situation I believe any Canadian would welcome and is one we should be mindful of in this discussion. I can also appreciate that there are other situations and different perspectives in this conversation that are deserving of consideration. As I believe all citizens share concerns on this subject I welcome your views, opinions and experiences. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.