Should Euthanasia Be Legalized in Canada

Should Euthanasia Be Legalized in Canada

Euthanasia is one of the most burning questions in today’s medical world. Canada is not actually the exception and the first cases of euthanasia are known there since the 1840-s: “The oldest records of so-called mercy killings in Canada I could find happened in the early 40’s. In 1941 in Alberta, Victor and Dorothy Ramberg, murdered their 2-year-old son who had been diagnosed with cancer. The Judge found them not guilty” (Eckstein, 2007). The question is among the contradictory ones and it is not surprising that it is discussed on the social and political levels of the country. It should be noted that people, who want to die with the help of euthanasia and their close relatives are intended to protect their rights in Canada. But the current events showed that the society is not ready to recognize “the right to die” to be the real right equal to the right to live: “The Canadian Parliament overwhelmingly defeated today the private members bill seeking to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.The House of Commons rejected Bill C-384, proposed by Member of Parliament Francine Lalonde (La Pointe-de-l'Île, BQ), by a vote of 228 to 59, with two additional members noting immediately afterwards that they mistakenly voted for the bill when they had intended to vote against it” (Craine, 2010). This essay would discuss the issue of euthanasia in canada examining “for” and “against” reasons.

What Is Euthanasia? The International Attitude to Euthanasia Issue.

‘For and against’ arguments seem to be never ending. It should be noted that there are several countries that do not prohibit euthanasia: Belgium, Switzerland and two states in the US.

The term euthanasia was suggested by English philosopher, Francis Bacon to characterize easy and painless death. Scientists traditionally define two forms of euthanasia: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia is physician assisted suicide (often abbreviated as PAS) and now it has become legal in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland and two states in the US (Oregon and Washington). Involuntary euthanasia is so called ‘mercy killing’ and carried out without explicit permission of the human concerned.It is very contradictory and complicated question, but I think that it is strongly connected with right for liberty and privacy. Euthanasia is personal decision of every human and it should be accepted. First, I will describe so called ‘the main reason’, which is supported by many physicians, who are against euthanasia, - the violation of Hippocratic Oath.

“For” and “Against” Reasons on Euthanasia Issue in Canada

The Hippocratic Oath says: “I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan”. Some physicians take becoming a practitioner. Those who support this point of view insist that the violation of the Hippocratic Oath weakens doctor-patient relationship. Actually they insist on the fact that prescription of lethal dosage of medicine could badly influence interpersonal relations. Personally I do not agree with the statement. There exists a supposition that Hippocrates himself violated his oath at least twice. If we examine the classical interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath, we will find out that it has already become out of date. Many principles, especially those, which prohibit abortion: “I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion” (National Institute of Health, 2009)(it has become legal in many countries of the world), some surgeon operations: “I will not use the knife, even upon those suffering from stones, but I will leave this to those who are trained in this craft” (National Institute of Health, 2009)(in ancient Greece surgeons were not considered to be doctors). The formula of this oath itself also does not correspond to contemporary realities: “I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement” (National Institute of Health, 2009) – the antique Gods could be hardly called guarantors of contemporary medicine.

Many physicians in the Canada support the idea of euthanasia. They strongly believe that every terminally ill patient have the right to choose death or life. It corresponds to the norms of human rights and liberties and strongly supported by some social unites. I think, it essential, that people want to decide themselves, in the case of terminal illness, in particular. It is a well known fact that absolutely healthy Canadian woman, moved to Switzerland with her terminally-ill husband and committed euthanasia as she wanted to depart with her husband.

Another reasonable argument against euthanasia is connected with human life’s sanctity: “This argument points out strong religious and secular traditions against taking human life. It is argued that assisted suicide is morally wrong because it contradicts these beliefs” (University of Washington School of Medicine, 2009). I’m quite opposite to this statement. I strongly believe that people could decide themselves, whether to live or not, in the because of soon death. Physician Assisted suicide gives terminally-ill people die with dignity and leaving good memories, but not making suffer their relatives and suffering themselves.

The ‘against’ party gives one more reason for prohibiting euthanasia. They consider that the cases of abuse will be observed, if euthanasia will be legalized. It is mainly connected with emotionally and physiologically disturbed patients and those poor and uninsured people, who could not provide normal medical treating. According to emotional or physiological statement they could convince the doctor to assist in ending their life. I think that this is one of the most serious reasons in order to prohibit euthanasia. But still I keep to my personal point of view. I think that all these cases could be regulated by law. It will not be an ease task, but it should be done, as terminally-ill people must have their right to die. I think that people should understand the difference between euthanasia and suicide committing. These are two different cases. And if there is no other way to avoid abuse, it should be regulated by law.

The opposite reason is closely connected with compassion: “Suffering means more than pain; there are other physical and psychological burdens. It is not always possible to relieve suffering” (University of Washington School of Medicine, 2009). I agree to this statement as in some cases euthanasia could be compassionate answer to intolerable suffering. In medical practice, there could be observed many cases of terminal illness, when patient’s suffering could be eased neither by medicine, nor by extreme care. The single solution in this case is euthanasia.

One more reason against euthanasia is possible fallibility of the profession. It is closely connected with the cases, when the wrong diagnosis could be observed. I could not agree to this statement. In our world of highly developed technologies it is almost impossible to put wrong diagnosis. Nobody could be insured from medical mistake, but in present day world this statement is loosing its acuteness.

And final reason for euthanasia is openness for discussion: “Some would argue that assisted death already occurs, albeit in secret. For example, morphine drips ostensibly used for pain relief may be a covert form of assisted death or euthanasia. That PAS is illegal prevents open discussion, in which patients and physicians could engage. Legalization of PAS would promote open discussion” (University of Washington School of Medicine, 2009). I completely agree to this statement and support the idea that euthanasia will become more clear and understandable for people if it will be legalized.


In the end I would like to note that the question is still left unsolved in Canada and many other countries. Should people have the right to die or not will be probably the most discussed question in contemporary Canadian medicine for recent years. Despite the fact that the bill dealing with the euthanasia permission in Canada was defeated I strongly believe that this question won’t leave people indifferent and very soon the problem would be solved. Personally, I support the idea of euthanasia legalization as I think that the right to die is strongly connected with rights for liberty and privacy. As a democratic country Canada should legally provide “right to die” for those, who have serious reasons for that.


1. Seale, C. (Oct 2009). Continuous Deep Sedation in Medical Practice: A Descriptive Study. J Pain Symptom Manage.
2. National Institute of Health (2009) Greek Medicine. The Hippocratic Oath. Retrieved 1st of November 2009 from National Institute of Health web site:
3. University of Washington School of Medicine. (2008). Ethics in Medicine. Physician assisted suicide. Retrieved 1st of November 2009 from University of Washington School of Medicine web site
4. Eckstein Sh. (November 31 ~ December 1, 2007). History of euthanasia in Canada. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition's Euthanasia Symposium: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
5. Craine P. B. (April 21, 2010). Breaking: Euthanasia Bill Defeated in Canada. Retrieved from

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