Lawyer cautions against legislating through courts
By Mike Youds, Daily News Staff Reporter
|Margaret Dore (L) and Wanda Morris (R)
A right to medically assisted suicide may sound compassionate and just, but beware the details when it comes to the act itself, a U.S. lawyer warned Wednesday in a debate at TRU.
Margaret Dore shared some of her experiences with assisted suicide in Washington State, where the practice became legal through a ballot measure four years ago.
"A lot of people think this is a great idea until they start thinking and reading about how you do it," she told an audience of about 30 people in the Irving K. Barber Centre.
In effect, laws in Washington and Oregon empower people who may choose to abuse the responsibility, Dore said.
"Your heir can be there to help you sign up. Once the legal dose leaves the pharmacy, there is no oversight whatsoever."
Wanda Morris, head of the Canadian charity Dying With Dignity, advocated for the right to choose to end life humanely.
"These are individuals who want to live, but they are individuals facing a horrific death," she said. "The fundamental difference is choice. Choice is important in Canada. Why is it, at the time of life when we're facing our toughest decision we could ever make, that choice is taken away?"
The issue has long been debated in Canada, where two years ago Parliament easily defeated a bill that would have permitted assisted suicide and euthanasia. Recently the subject has made headlines again with two court high-profile court cases in B.C. and Quebec.
"Autonomy is such a critical value, it is a cornerstone of modern medicine," Morris continued. "Nothing can be done without consent. And yet here, at the end of life, I'm not given that choice."
Dore said she agrees that people should have the right to choose how they die, but the U.S. laws don't give that. Four days after the Washington State law passed, the adult son of a care facility resident showed up asking how "to get them pills," she said.
"Who's choice?," she asked rhetorically. An adult child can administer the lethal dose with no one else to tell whether it was a matter of consent. "There is no oversight over administration."
Morris insisted that the law her organization has long pushed for would only apply to individuals with six months or less to live. Dore countered that such a restriction does not apply in the U.S. and pointed to a case where an Oregon woman, who was talked out of suicide by her doctor, remains thankful she has survived another 12 years.
There was a $5.4-million lobby for assisted suicide in Washington, a machine that was up against a volunteer group, she said.
"In Canada and the U.S., there is a very significant funder in this debate and it is the Catholic church," Morris said.
Opponents of assisted suicide argue from dogmatic positions and cannot be satisfied, she said.
"Excuse me, but I never said anything about Catholic dogma," Dore replied.
She warned that Canada, having rejected the idea in Parliament, is facing the possibility of legislating it through the courts with the Carter and Leblanc court cases.
"We have a blank slate and we can write in whatever controls we want to protect the weak and the vulnerable," Morris said.