GUEST COLUMN: My life, my death, my choice

Wendy Cornelis

Every time we look at a newspaper or watch TV news, we hear something about “physician assisted death,” although it is often called by other names such as euthanasia, dying with dignity, right to die, etc.

Regardless of the name, the issue has unfortunately pitted groups against each other, even when both work for the same ends. The Unitarian Fellowship of Sarnia & Port Huron has recently committed to supporting “end of life choices” and the right of an individual to end his or her life with the assistance of a medical professional to prescribe the medication necessary to make dying painless and peaceful.

There is significant misunderstanding in the general population because of public arguments that often result in basic fear mongering.

Much can be learned by studying countries that have legalized “euthanasia,” such as Holland and Belgium. Research indicates those countries have not experienced the “slippery slope” that naysayers predicted when legislation passed.

In the U.S.A., several states have decriminalized “physician-assisted death” and allowed those physicians who are not interested in participating to opt out. Even after obtaining the appropriate drugs in states that allow it, only one in five patients actually carry through with their original plans.

Many others choose hospice/palliative care. All reported experiencing “peace of mind” because they had choices.

Quebec’s Bill 52, which is “legislation to allow medical aid in dying,” is likely to be passed this year and then other provinces will be faced with taking a stand on the issue as well.

The issue is NOT “Suicide versus Palliative Care,” but rather, “what is the best solution for individuals who are in extreme discomfort and have no hope of recovery from terminal illness?”

The majority of those individuals simply want to be able to “choose” how and when the end will be for them. It’s the ultimate control over one’s own life/death.

While clearly supporting “end of life choices”, the Unitarian Fellowship of Sarnia & Port Huron is hoping to help educate our community about both sides of this subject.

As a first step, initial plans are being developed to orchestrate a formal discussion panel of professionals who can take questions and debate the issue in a public format. Watch for details in the near future.

Wendy Cornelis is the Past President of the Unitarian Fellowship of Sarnia & Port Huron