Monday, June 20, 2016

Death, but not suffering

Canada has finally passed legislation to allow people to receive medical aid to end their lives.  It is about time.  Medically assisted dying is something we ought to have allowed a long time ago, as there is no goodness in making people suffer just to continue life.

Unfortunately it isn't quite the bill I was hoping for.  It allows people who are terminally ill to end their lives, which is good, but it doesn't allow people who are suffering but not likely to die the same option.  It is really important that we don't write off people who are sick, and work hard to give them opportunities to contribute and lead happy lives, but sometimes that isn't an option.  Sometimes people end up in places where their suffering is so great that they would rather not live, and there should be a legal way for them to do that.

I don't know why exactly the government was so intent on this particular implementation.  They pushed their version where only those people who will soon die can access medically assisted dying, despite opposition from the Senate as well as plenty of other sources interested in the outcome.  My guess is that the Liberals are trying to play the centre - appeasing the right who don't want people to have physician assisted dying, but also appeasing the left who do.  Cutting out people who are suffering but not in danger of dying is the middle ground.  I think it is a cowardly act, politically calculated, and not what people need.

We do need protections for the vulnerable, but there are plenty of protections in place.  We don't need to outlaw something entirely just to reduce risk to zero - you make the best safety rules you can and then you move forward.

So I am happy that this has happened, but I wish it happened properly.  It doesn't give me a lot of hope for legalization of marijuana, unfortunately, because I suspect that the Liberals will do the same thing and run down the middle.  Instead of just low level regulation they will probably end up with a mess of rules that make it too expensive or too difficult to get pot for most people and it won't actually end the war on pot, wasting endless time and money.

I had greater hopes for the Liberals.  Perhaps they can yet prove me wrong, but I am not overly optimistic.


  1. I don't see it that way at all. Sure this bill is pretty lackluster and I think isn't going to do enough good. At the same time, when you're dealing with something controversial, I don't think jumping into the "optimal" solution is necessary a good idea.

    First, I'm not even sure people really understand where the "optimal" solution is, nor do we really understand what all of the ramifications will be if we were to implement it. A cautious approach allows a better understanding of what might happen if we were to step further.

    Second, allowing opponents of *whatever* to accept the changes is much easier done if it is done in big chunks. They will be more willing to accept that *whatever* isn't as terrible as they thought if they see *whatever light* is still okay. Even something as terrible as cigarettes took years of gradual changes. A bill isn't terrible just because it doesn't accomplish everything you wanted in one fell swoop.

    I don't think legalization of marijuana will be a short or easy path. I'm not sure I want it to be, even though I think in the end it will do little harm (or good). I prefer my societal changes to be slow unless there is a very compelling reason for it to be otherwise.


  2. Suicide for anyone who wants it is a very tricky thing and I am not convinced making it easier for people not in danger of dying helps either those people or society as a whole.

    1. I don't think it should be for everyone, but I think having it available is a good thing. While I would personally only be comfortable with chronic pain, there are even benefits if it's just available period for anyone who asks. Not that I want people to die, but if say you had to talk to a doctor (or someone) to do so, it also opens up an avenue of support which could prevent suicides in general. It also normalizes suicidal urges so people feel more at ease discussing them with friends/family... which could also allow more support and prevent suicides.


  3. I don't see why legalization of marijuana should be slow or difficult. It isn't different from alcohol except it that it is less harmful. That level of regulation is straightforward. Getting past people's hangups on marijuana as a 'drug' and therefore dangerous is a process, but there is no excuse for screwing up the legislation if you are informed.

    You are right that it is likely easier to push through changes surrounding assisted dying in pieces, as people are terrified of it, and if it were badly handled there could be tragic consequences. I still think they did it wrong, but you have a point that there are benefits to slowness.

  4. I disagree. First of all, there are many valid reasons not to want marijuana legalized, which have nothing to do with it being a drug. I'm not sure they are overpowering reasons not to legalize it, but there are reasons.

    This also brings into the difficulties in legislating it. It is pretty easy to just say okay... pot is legal, go to... but that's also bad legislation. Screwing up legislation is actually very easy to do as people are bat-shit crazy and will do unimaginable things.