The Grey Area of Assisted Dying

Assisted dying rules are inconsistent and perplexing. Whilst one country may support euthanasia and assisted dying, other nations are completely against it. Yet, surely all humans deserve the same treatment. Dignity in death is certainly an issue that as we grow older, we will start to consider more and more. 

So, it is no wonder that in 2016 Canada introduced laws that meant eligible Canadian adults may be allowed to be assisted in voluntary death. This came under an act called Maid (medical assistance in dying). However, this law does have many terms, making it less straightforward. This includes a condition that a person must be within the mental capacity to be able to give informed consent on the day of their chosen death. 

Whilst many may see this as extremely permissive, in February of this year the Canadian parliament brought in a proposal to decrease the eligibility rules of those who request assisted dying, and help people pursue euthanasia whether their death is imminent or not. This allows greater autonomy for the Canadians. For those who suffer with deteriorating illnesses such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s (when one cannot predict the downfall of their health), this proposal means a great deal to them.

Previously, the law meant those with illnesses such as Dementia would have to die before their time is up, as they would have to be in a sound state of mind to give their informed consent. Now, if the proposed law is accepted, then those suffering will have enough time to say goodbye to their loved ones in a sound state of mind. This amendment could allow for death with dignity, rather than endless suffering of both the patient and their family, who would otherwise have to watch the mental capacity of their loved one falter or lose them before they’re ready to go. 

On the other hand, countries such as the UK are still completely against both euthanasia and assisted dying. Both are illegal and have been since the 1961 Suicide Act. According to the charity Dignity in Dying, a campaign group whose goal is to make it legal for terminally ill adults to have access to assisted dying in the UK, over 84% of the public support the campaign for the introduction of assisted dying in the UK. 

However, the group states that they believe only those of sound mind with 6 months or less to live should be allowed access to the law, and no further. This still puts the UK behind Canada. However, the acknowledgement for change is still widely accepted by the British public.

Yet still, so many British people seek peace in places like Switzerland and the Netherlands, where it is completely legal to undertake euthanasia and assisted death. Most well known in Switzerland is Dignitas, an organisation which allows its members to peacefully end their lives, and also allows the request of assisted suicide. According to Dignity in Dying, every 8 days a Briton travels abroad to end their life. Families are also allowed to travel with the person but at the risk of getting arrested when getting back into the UK. 

The extent that Britons are going to is surely a sign to the British government that banning assisted dying is cruel and unfair and almost takes away a human right. 

If a family member can provide written proof from when the patient was of sound mind before their health began to weaken, that they wish to end their own life, then how can this be argued with? Why keep anyone suffering longer than they have to? 

On the other hand, suicide is never something to encourage, and the effects of those around the sufferer should always be considered. Also, if we legalise assisted death, then it could become common practice, or even seen as an ‘easy way out’. Vulnerable people in unstable states of minds may take advantage of the law if it was passed. Therefore, there should always be checks and conditions in place, making sure the patient is truly eligible. 

Ultimately though, assisted dying laws around the world need to be more consistent and fairer. No matter your stance on assisted suicide, if someone is clearly increasingly suffering then they deserve their right to peace.

Lauren Woodley 

Image: Fshoq! blog.