Opinion

Hodge: Assisted suicide ruling right move

Better late than never. Eventually the current scenario may prove to simply be a brief hiccup in the legal system of this country. However, if we are fortunate, it will prove to be a precedent setting decision that drags us out of the dark ages and into a world of compassion.

Last week the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld Gloria Taylor’s one-year exemption from the law stopping her from having an assisted suicide.

Taylor, who suffers from ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease), was one of the plaintiffs in a recent B.C. Supreme Court case that challenged Canada’s ban on assisted suicide. The judge ruled that the ban was unconstitutional and told the federal government to rewrite the legislation concerning assisted suicide. The federal government immediately announced it would appeal the overturning of the ban and Taylor’s exemption, which the judge in the Supreme Court case granted her.

Last Friday, however, Justice Jo-Ann Prowse of the B.C. Court of Appeal rejected the government’s application to place a stay on Taylor’s exemption, saying because of Taylor’s declining condition she would suffer if the exemption was removed.

Taylor is the only known person in Canada currently allowed to have an assisted suicide.

As expected, the announcement was greeted by a huge outpouring of comments and mixed reactions.

For many, such a paramount decision seems reprehensible, unfathomable, and immoral.

For others it is simply a logistical, long overdue, ruling on a decision that really had no right being denied to begin with.

The right to take one’s own life has and always will be a highly subjective and emotional matter, and one that most folks simply will not touch or discuss.

Over the years, I have certainly waned on the issue and at times, like a pendulum, swung from one side to another on the whole philosophical issue.

However, today, I celebrate the recent decision.

Until one has truly faced death in the face, it is hard to judge, or even begin to comprehend, how complex such a decision is.

Until one has truly come to grips with a debilitating, cruel, lingering, fatal illness, it really is impossible to comprehend the emotions and desires of someone in such a situation.

With death, theory is easy. Grasping it by the throat and actually dealing with it is a whole other ball game.

When one truly comprehends that their life form (as we know it) is dwindling due to a cruel terminal illness, all the theory goes out the window.

Taylor is dying of ALS and when it comes to nasty ways to depart it is right up there in the no fun factor.

It is quite simply cruel, unfair, and certainly unforgiving.

As hard as it is on the victim of such a terminal illness, it can be even harsher, in many ways, on family members and friends.

Having no option except breaking the law or facing the stigma of suicide only adds to the emotional and mental harshness for all involved.

ALS in only one of the many terminal illnesses that can strike down any of us at any time, and does so in a truly debilitating way.

Cancers, physical and mental diseases and other life-altering scenarios surround us constantly. And while it is nice to pretend or suggest that things happen for a reason, it’s not always true.

Sometimes terrible things happen to the best people and there is absolutely no rhyme or reason for it.

I do not pretend to be God, or even pretend to fully understand God—and I defy any common man or woman to say he or she truly does.

But I am a man who also holds God and Christ close to my soul and heart.

In my admitted, limited knowledge of all of the above, I do believe I have been blessed with my time on this planet

and I cherish my time here.

That being said, I also believe God gave me the powers of choice and reason so that I could use them.

The God in my world is not an angry God, or a jealous God. Nor is he a God that believes in extremes of torture or anguish.

Right or wrong, my God is one of compassion, understanding, tolerance and reason.

Without question, there is plenty of cause for concern about the new tentative legislation now sitting before our courts.

Certainly there are those who may senselessly and sadly try to find

ridiculous loopholes in the rulings, and make a mockery of the intent of the ruling.

Anytime such significant laws face adjustment there are those who will rally to the side of stupidity.

However, that does not diminish the fact that for a handful of Canadians who have been horrendously dealing with similar terminal and relentlessly unforgiving fatal illness, there is now a sense of rights and choices that truly serve our right to dignity, quality of life, and choice.

Ironically, at the end of the day, Taylor may not even decide to proceed with her newly legalized right and end her own life.

But at least that will be her right and her choice.

And that is the point.

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