By June 2016, Canada will join the handful of nations worldwide, that permit medically assisted death. The Liberal Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is working to produce a law that recognises citizens legal rights to ‘die with dignity’. Canada’s Supreme court previously ruled that the parliament must have legislation, passed and enforceable by mid-year, meaning that Canada will soon stand alongside countries such as Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands who already reflect this right.
The laws, which tend to be extremely divisive, are applicable to the terminally ill, the mentally ill, and to any adults in positions of irremediable suffering. The idea, although greatly contentious from a moral and ethical perspective, attempts to offer some semblance of dignity and relief, to individuals in dire circumstances.
Supporters of the legislation suggest that individuals have a moral right to choose feely what they do with their lives as long as they do so without inflicting harm onto others – they believe that this right extends to death.
Those who oppose the legislation tend to argue that society has a moral duty to protect and preserve all life and that we should not be giving medical personnel the burden of destroying it.
The Canadian cabinet is currently analysing a parliamentary report which made 21 recommendations regarding assisted death. If the recommendations are taken on-board, the law looks to possess a number of safety-nets, checks and requirements that will ensure additional protection for both patients and medical staff.
Overall, the Canadian public seem to support the right-to-die laws. A recent poll conducted by Form Research suggests that almost 80 per cent of Canadians would be in favour of a law which made it legal to seek medical assistance to end ones life.
Conversely, Australia has no current laws regarding this emotive and morally-dubious subject. However, the issue is becoming more prominent, as organisations and individuals (namely; Exit International, Philip Nitschke, Doctor Rodney Syme and Television personality; Andrew Denton) advocate for an increasingly public and informed debate.