Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted September 26, 2013

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A commentary on euthanasia

Dying for Dignity

by Spiritual Echo

Doctor Donald Low died September 18th 2013, just seven months after he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. He is best remembered as the voice that spoke to the world during the SARS outbreak in Toronto some ten years ago.

As a leading internist, specializing in contagious disease at Mount Sinai Hospital, he knew only too well what the prognosis was for his final days on Earth. There were no treatments, no protocol that would stave off the cancer. His decline would include the loss of hearing, his eye sight and eventually paralysis.

In a seven minute video he recorded a week before his death, he speaks candidly and openly about his decline and passionately about his wish for a doctor assisted death to allow him to pass with dignity.

In the Netherlands, Switzerland and some US states, it is legal to pursue this option, but in Canada it is not. He describes the final narcotic-laden cocktail and the process where the patient quietly goes to sleep and never wakes up.

Dr. Low was not afraid of dying. He would have made the choice instantly, if he had the power over his own destiny. One could assuredly state that his, as both a renown doctor and a patient, was a highly qualified opinion.

I think of the many beloved pets that I have helped along when there was no hope and only suffering in their lives, and it grieves me that we can not extend this kind of compassion to the terminally ill.

In countries where this is a legal option, one can't just decide to end it all, march into a doctor's office and expose a vein. There is a stringent procedure to examine every possibility for an alternative to the patient's distress, but ultimately, it is the patient's right to die with dignity.

We've had court battles in Canada in the past over this issue--most went to the highest court of the land--the Supreme Court. Not one of those challenges was successful.

Dr. Low did not wage a court battle. One might argue that as a physician he could write himself a prescription and die within his own terms, but such is not the case for the average citizen. His public declaration, his highly visible persona gives incredible strength to those who have lobbied for this right, but have no voice.

In a statement I heard this morning, I paused to consider what a great comfort this publicity must bring to Dr. Low's family. Their father, husband, grandfather and colleague lived his life dedicated to healing and perhaps his death will continue to help families come to terms with the circle of life.

"Doctor Donald Low died a painless death in the arms of his wife, but it was not the death he hoped for."

The legislators in Canada may not have been prepared to open the debate on euthanasia again, but the people in this country are talking about the issue and we still have confidence, here in Canada, that someone is listening.


Google Dr. Donald Low to watch his video. His eyelid is taped up as he has lost the ability to open his eyes.
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