Quebec’s “Death With Dignity” Bill

I am so happy (relieved maybe?… “happy” isn’t quite the right word) that Quebec is pressing ahead — finally, after several false starts across the nation — with its physician-assisted-euthanasia laws, protecting from criminal prosecution doctors who give patients all-options-on-the-table end-of-life counseling and ultimately assistance if needed. I know it can be hard to understand for a healthy person — and I admit that for a long time I was opposed to euthanasia (when my headspace was more in the “mental illness leading to suicide” realm) for any reasons because I was so much of the opinion that there’s always a way to fix things, and any option is better than death. But that’s just not true in far too many cases. The fact is there are many people suffering from conditions that don’t offer an acceptable quality of life either in the present, or in some nightmarish immediate future, have no cure or reasonable treatment options, and have no chance of getting better.

As most of you know, in my own case, I’ve been fighting and trying to survive a condition that is not only physically and mentally debilitating — and progressively so — but is incredibly painful. There isn’t a single moment for the last at last three years where the primary experience hasn’t been pain. Imagine that for a moment. We forgive prisoners at Gitmo when they off themselves after being tortured for few weeks. Why do we expect the ill to suffer nobly and indefinitely? Imagine being tortured every single day, from the moment you wake to the moment you somehow get to sleep. Every day of your life, every moment of every day, and not only that but you’re guaranteed that every day it will get worse. Yes, from time to time hope gets dangled in front of you — a new treatment for the condition, a new painkiller, whatever… but none of them work. The pain keeps getting worse. The painkillers, while they may reduce the pain slightly, don’t come close to stopping it, not even long enough to take a single peaceful breath, and bring their own health problems as well — to say nothing of the “war on drugs” putting all sorts of new limitations on your life, drastically cutting down the choices you have in front of you. Your body and mind keep getting chipped away at. Every day you live with both the horror of what is happening to you at that moment, and the even worse horror that you know that it will only get worse. It’s not unreasonable that at some point, knowing that any time you have left before the disease finally runs its course and kills you (and of course the cruelest ones take their time killing you), that you might say “enough is enough.” Even just knowing that option was there would help so much, giving you some small amount of control in a life where control is increasingly taken away.

Under the current system, patients in my condition — and I’m sure there are a lot of us, and more than would publicly admit it, because we’re brought up being shamed into never talking about this stigmatized act — can’t even talk to their doctors about the way they feel, lest they risk being institutionalized, locked up, imprisoned against their will in order to “protect them from themselves”, and risk limitations being put on pain medication that they could overdose on. Conversely, doctors who do speak honestly with patients put themselves at legal risk, both civil and criminal. Patients are backed into a desperate and grotesque corner, forced to consider their options without anyone to talk to, and in the end, often without even a peaceful way out — instead of being helped to slip away quietly into some eternal slumber, they end up either overdosing — which is often unsuccessful, bringing new medical consequences, to say nothing of adding medication restrictions to other patients in the system, or choosing a violent, often painful method like hanging or shooting, adding shock and trauma to the life of the sadness of the loved one that likely discovers their corpse. It’s incredibly cruel to everyone involve, heaping more pain onto a situation that is already painful beyond description.

This euthanasia bill — you can read a little about the latest steps here — still has a long way to go before it’s law, let alone acted on, and it will take even longer before it creeps across other provinces let alone the federal system (and around the world), but it’s a big, big step in the right direction. Obviously in an ideal world, we would never solve someone’s problems by helping them die — the idea is abhorrent — but as the old saying goes, “there are worse things than dying”…

From one of my favorite Byron poems, aptly titled Euthanasia

When Time, or soon or late, shall bring
The dreamless sleep that lulls the dead,
Oblivion! may thy languid wing
Wave gently o’er my dying bed!

No band of friends or heirs be there,
To weep, or wish, the coming blow:
No maiden, with dishevelled hair,
To feel, or feign, decorous woe.

But silent let me sink to earth,
With no officious mourners near:
I would not mar one hour of mirth,
Nor startle friendship with a tear.

Then lonely be my latest hour,
Without regret, without a groan?
For thousands Death hath ceas’d to lower,
And pain been transient or unknown.

Not allowing euthanasia just heaps more cruelty onto the lives of people who have experienced nothing but cruelty until they have nothing left… The sooner this bill starts setting the way for Canada the better.


  1. Robyn wrote:


    Friday, January 18, 2013 at 8:06 pm | Permalink
  2. Shannon wrote:

    In any truly free society there is a point in the life of the average person where they are trusted to decide what they want to do with their own body, but sadly some groups choose to legislate their morality onto others and often disguise it as the “word/law of God”, and if the ‘one size fits all’ mandate doesn’t suit everyone then those people have not been fully birthed and are less than sentient- and uhm, er yea God is testing them.

    The laws of God (including physics, and?) are enforced by God, everything else is little more than a cosmic poker game where you are supposed to make the best of the cards you are dealt; then along come those who are essentially professionally (or spiritually) evil, to prey upon weakness for personal financial gain.

    Freedom is lacking when the terminally afflicted are only trusted to decide what they want to do (with their own body) from options that serve the will of the establishment (or the man behind the curtain pretending to be God).

    Ideally no one would want to end their own life, but reality (still) has it’s own agenda, and who’s body is it anyway? If our own bodies are not legally our own property then how free are we? Right to die legislation helps to codify that our body and mind belong to each other, not to the state, and not to anyone or anything else (unless we choose so).

    The good news is I’m convinced that “Even death is not built to last.” But that’s another topic, and the validity of my argument relies heavily on agreeing on what defines an individual in the first place.

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 1:24 am | Permalink
  3. yes

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink
  4. Saylor Geri wrote:

    You do realize that every single one of your “mystery illness” symptoms is that of severe opiate addiction. I mean, it’s pretty obvious.

    Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink
  5. Shannon wrote:

    Saylor, I wish it was that simple!!! In part that’s true, many of these symptoms, at least the subjective ones, can also be caused by opiate abuse and this made some of my early experiences with the medical community difficult — many doctors made the same assumption that you’re making. This was because of the way I looked though (tattoos, big beard, etc.) and not because of drug tests (as I was drug free at the time — didn’t even smoke pot). That said, there were symptoms like elevated CK levels that pointed at a more “real” cause, which eventually lead to CT scans, electrical tests of the muscles, both of which showed serious problems with the function of my skeletal muscles. After that, a muscle biopsy was done which clarified the exact nature of my condition. Yes, many of the pain-related symptoms can be caused by opiate abuse, but opiates don’t cause muscle tissue to be replaced with calcium lattices, so as soon as the biopsy was done, the nail was put in the coffin of the prejudicial idea that this was a drug problem.

    Anyway, as I said I didn’t start taking optiates until YEARS after the pain developed. I’m not sure if your post was a dig or an attempt to be helpful, and really I’ve only let it through moderation because the incorrect assumption you’re making is something that many pain patients face and makes diagnosis much more difficult, unpleasant, and lengthy. I also agree that it’s always important for patients to be wary that the treatment they’re receiving could be making their problems worse rather than better… Especially in the case of rare diseases where doctors are somewhat grasping in the dark.

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Permalink
  6. Shannon wrote:

    Nancy, wow, that’s extremely disturbing.

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink
  7. smyttie wrote:

    Glad I’m living in Belgium where active euthanasia is legal even in case of psychic diseases.

    You just have to avoid to go to a hospital run by a catholic organisation or doctor.

    I hope that you will be able to use this option the day that you decide it has been enough.

    On the other hand : stay alive, I like to read your ramblings :-)

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  8. Operator wrote:

    Having a parent suffering from a degenerative disease, I will be overjoyed to see the day when a person has the right to choose the standard for their own quality of life

    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink
  9. Elizabeth wrote:

    Now I wonder what Nancy said.

    Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  10. Shannon wrote:

    Saylor Geri

    I think arguing (terminal) chronic pain with a healthy person is like getting them to intuitively comprehend infinity; the best that can be hoped for is for them to understand that it’s beyond comprehension, it’s on an altogether different band than normal pain, and one of the worst things that can be done is to relate their pain to any scale of normalcy.

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink
  11. martini wrote:

    Well said my friend as always. One cannot argue with logic and compassion. I know first hand the misery that chronic and debilitating pain can have not just on the person afflicted but those who love them as well. I’ll see you soon!

    Friday, February 15, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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