Doctor, patient advocate better end-of-life care, not euthanasia
The Quebec government could be one of only a handful of places in the world to open the door to doctor-assisted suicide, but one group of doctors is profoundly opposed to the idea, saying what we need is better end-of-life care, not laws on euthanasia.
A committee report released earlier this year will likely become a dying with dignity bill tabled in the National Assembly before summer.
“I think most people are concerned about suffering. They don't want to suffer, and that's a real concern. We need to address that,” said Paul Saba, president of the Coalition for Physicians for Social Justice and a vocal advocate against euthanasia.
Saba and his patient Frank Humphrey spoke out Wednesday against the controversial decision some make to end their lives with the assistance of doctors.
In the final stages of ALS, Humphrey’s can’t move or breathe on his own, but he is pain free, he said he wants to live and feels he still has plenty to give.
After months in the hospital, Humphrey is now at home, using a respirator and sleeping in his own bed for as long as he has left.
“Our 35th wedding anniversary is in August and that will be a wonderful time because we'll be together,” said Daria Humphrey, his wife.
“No matter what the College (of Physicians) says, what the government says, it's wrong morally and it's wrong medically and there's going to be abuse,” said Saba.
Ron Olivenstein, a doctor at the Montreal Thoracic Hospital, deals with many patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and agrees Quebec is far from ready for a debate on euthanasia.
“If assured of proper medical care as they go through the various stages of the disease, they don't ask for something like euthanasia,” he said.
“The solution is not to pass a law to encourage patients to end their lives prematurely. The solution surely is first to adequately assure excellent medical care for patients in all stages of their disease.”
Quebec Social Services Minister Veronique Hivon plans on tabling a bill before summer that would allow doctors to help some terminally ill patients end their lives. The details remain confidential, but the decision has sparked a passionate and controversial debate.
When the Quebec commission on the issue released its report on dying with dignity in March 2012, many were in favour of the findings.
“We believe that there is some suffering that only death can end,” said Wanda Morris from the group Dying with Dignity last year.
“In the law right now we have the right to refuse treatment, we have the right to stop treatment, the right not to have excessive treatment, so we don't need another law for euthanasia,” he said.