Investing in palliative care will help build a more compassionate society

Investing in palliative care will help build a more compassionate society

We must invest in strengthening the nature of our society by raising the level of palliative care and resist all efforts towards facilitating the death of the vulnerable among us.

Earlier this month, a cross party group of Parliamentarians heard from internationally renowned Dutch ethicist Professor Theo Boer who, in 2002, initially supported the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia in the Netherlands. He was subsequently involved in the legislation’s implementation. This experience caused him to radically revise his position.

Initially, the extent of the legislation’s application was limited to cases involving terminal illness, with a focus on avoidance of pain in death. Professor Boer explained how the scope of the legislation was then gradually extended to include people with physical illness not necessarily nearing death, and subsequently to people facing mental illness.

In this unravelling, Professor Boer explained how he came to appreciate that once choosing death becomes permissible in one set of circumstances, such as terminal illness, it becomes logically impossible to hold this position without discriminating against others…

This experience is in no way unique to the Netherlands.

In 2016, Canada passed a law allowing assisted suicide for those in pain for whom death was “reasonably foreseeable”. In 2019, however, the Canadian Courts ruled in favor of two people who wanted to die but for whom death was not reasonably foreseeable, deeming that constraint to be a violation of their rights.

Once choosing death is legalized and thereby legitimized, Professor Boer argued it fundamentally changes the nature of society. All too quickly, a “right to die” for some becomes a “duty” for many more, profoundly impoverishing our communities…

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