Choosing How We End Our Life:Living Life & The Right To End It.

Originally posted at on February 12, 2015

Death and dying are not subjects most of us are comfortable discussing. This was changed on February 6, 2015 whereby the Supreme Court issued a life changing decision. By unanimous conclusion the Court struck down the ban on physician assisted death. This ‘assistance’ would apply in specific situations whereby an individual “clearly consents to the termination of life” and “has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”
This is a decision that generates much emotion and much fear among many. It is also a decision that allows an individual to live out their final days and respects the autonomy of the individual to have control over one’s own breath.

The Vanier Institute of the Family (Volume 43, Number 3) published a summary report of Death, Dying and Canadian Families with research completed by Dr. Katherine Arnup. Download Death, Dying and Canadian Familles from the Vanier Institute’s website.

While most of us would like to live fully and then die in our own beds, this is not the case. Dr. Arnup shares that only 10% of will have this ‘sudden death’ while most of us will experience a slow decline and die in hospital. She shares that we want to die pain-free and moreover, we want to die with dignity. Dr. Arnup states that “dignity resides in the quality and nature of the care provided and in the attitudes of both the caregiver and the recipient of care.” She also notes that families assume that home care will be available yet at the same time, care recipients fear they will be a burden to their families. The data referred to in the summary report is from 2004 and at that time, the poll completed found that “while eight in 10 surveyed Canadians agreed that people should start planning for end of life while they are healthy, only 44% said they had discussed it with a family member and only 9% had discussed it with a physician.” I hope that this Supreme Court decision has encouraged more and more of us to have the ‘D’ conversation with our families and doctors, regardless of our point of view.

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