A deadline is fast approaching.
And “deadline” is an apt description of the decision required of Parliament this week.
A year and a half ago, Canada’s Supreme Court heard from two women who wanted to stop.
Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor had had enough.
They had had enough of suffering.
They had had enough of life.
They didn’t just want death, they wanted death with dignity.
They wanted help from a doctor who could assure a quick and painless end.
They felt that it was wrong that the Criminal Code of Canada equated any such assistance with murder.
The country’s top judges all agreed. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Criminal Code’s prohibition against assisted suicide contravened the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Basically, the court said that we own the house we live in. And when we want to get rid of the house, we are allowed to ask for help from experts.
If and when we want to die, we can get help to make sure it’s done right.
But the judges didn’t just tear down the subdivision.
The court recognized that a caring and compassionate government should ensure that folks don’t start offing themselves willy nilly, with rules restricting suicide assistance to “adults who are mentally competent and suffering intolerably and enduringly.”
You might also expect some laws to ensure “assistance” isn’t actually murder.
The court delayed its February 2015 ruling until June 6, 2016 – Monday next.
Naturally, since this is literally a life-and-death matter, the government sat on its thumbs just about as long as it possibly could.
It’s not unfair to characterize the government as procrastinating on this issue. They’ve had more than enough time to “get it right.”
The first attempt to offer Canadians death with dignity was brought to the House of Commons by Langley MP Bob Wenman in the 1980s. And for the current crop of Conservatives wringing their hands over the current Bill C-14, Bob was one of theirs.
This has been an issue of concern for many people for a long, long time – people dying in prolonged agony, and the families who have borne heart-rending witness to their loved-ones’ pain.
The courts have little claim to moral high ground. It took them the same decades of indifference salted with religious indignation before coming to their rational conclusion – decades in which compassionate assistance was time and again rewarded with jail sentences.
Finally, the misplaced morality that has been forced on people who are hurting too much to appreciate the kindness is being replaced with common sense.
Some people want death more than anything else.
Some people need death more than anything else.
It’s their right.