A right to die



The fourth physician-assisted death in Canada, and first in Manitoba, was granted on March 14. The case received no opposition from physicians, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority or the attorney general.

After reading this news, I felt relieved for this patient — they were able to die with dignity. I want to see physician-assisted death legalized because I believe in a person’s right to end their suffering. I’ve seen the quality of life deteriorate for someone with untreatable cancer. No one should have to suffer through that.

Right now, patients wishing to receive physician-assisted death have to apply for an exemption from the law that bars doctors from helping them die. The federal government will draft legislation on physician-assisted death by June 6.

I believe patients have a right to physician-assisted death for two reasons: beneficence and respect for autonomy.

Beneficence: doctors have a duty to alleviate pain and suffering.

Autonomy: a person has the right to make decisions about their body.

If a patient refuses treatment for their illness, which ultimately leads to their death, they have a right to do so. But why can’t a person choose the moment they die and how they die, if their suffering and pain will not improve? Physician-assisted death for terminally ill patients is ethical because the doctor would be respecting their choice to die with dignity, alleviating their pain and putting an end to their suffering.

I read a post on Facebook that said if euthanasia were legalized, we would no longer see acts of compassion for other human beings. I would argue that respect for someone’s wishes at the end of their life is the ultimate act of compassion.

Even with the best palliative care, there will still be patients who make a rational request for physician-assisted death. Palliative care may help reduce suffering but it can’t relieve symptoms. From the studies and essays I’ve read, many patients who have access to physician-assisted death don’t actually get it. Sometimes knowing it’s there provides enough reassurance to patients.

I support physician-assisted death 100 per cent. I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to preach the sanctity of life to someone who’s experiencing unending, excruciating pain. I believe doctors have an obligation to put aside their moral judgments for the best interest of their patients.


Kayla wants to be a broadcast journalist.

She loves conducting interviews and making short films.

Follow her on Twitter @KayMLawson