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Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide (PAS)

Info: Public opinion & a novel publicity campaign

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Public opinion on euthanasia:

Many polls have been taken. However, the results vary according to the precise question asked. Recent results show support for euthanasia choice at:

bulletUSA:
bulletA Gallup Poll of 1966-MAY showed 75% support.
bulletCNN/USA Today poll of 1997-JUN showed 57% in favor, 35% opposed
 
bulletCanada:
bulletGallup Canada in 1968 found 45% support
bulletA Gallup Canada poll in 1995 showed 76% support
 
bullet80% in the UK
 
bullet81% in Australia
 
bullet92% in the Netherlands 1

Ballot measures have been voted upon in three states of the United States. They showed support at:

bullet46% in Washington (1991).
 
bullet46% in California (1992).
 
bulletOregon poll:
bullet51% in 1994;
bullet60% in 1997.

A novel approach to promoting physician assisted suicide:

Andy McKay and Andy Manson are partners at the Cundari Group, a Canadian  advertising agency, in Toronto, ON. Both had parents and friends who died lingering and painful deaths. Manson's father's died 12 years ago of "a nasty bone cancer. He was a pretty tough character, but he was in so much pain it was awful." He had signed a living will that specified no extraordinary measures were to be taken to resuscitate him. McKay said: "We've both seen cases where passive euthanasia is the right thing to do." 2 By "passive euthanasia" he apparently means "physician assisted suicide."

Putting their publicity experience to use, they created a design for a sticker that resembles a memorial plaque, suitable for attaching to a park bench, etc. The stickers "commemorate" three fictional people - Donald J. McLeod, Rosa Maria Allende and Kathleen (Kay) Mandell, -- and include the URL of McKay's and Manson's website dignityindeath.com.

A photograph of one of the stickers appears in the Toronto Star article. 2 It says:

"To the glory of Kay Mandell, who at age 37 was stricken by Lou Gehrig's disease that caused her muscles to waste away, one by one, until her throat [became] paralysed and she choked to death while fully conscious. www.dignityindeath.com."

Another sicker discusses Donald McLeod, another fictional character, who spent six years in a coma while courts debated his fate. The third refers to a non-existent Rosa Allende who was kept alive for four years, costing the health care system hundreds of thousands of dollars that "could have helped find a cure for the very disease she suffered from."

Ruth von Fuchs, president of the Right to Die Society of Canada, 3 said:

"I found (the stickers) touching not so much slices of life, but slices of death. I just saw the anger and the grief and the determination that some people are feeling around this issue. More and more people are seeing their parents or their siblings have a death that they don't want for themselves."

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Canada's Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), 4 is reported as agreeing that the stickers "... are very compelling" but calls their website "misleading and inaccurate. ... No one wants to see people suffering in the way they describe." He feels that the DignityInDeath site is using confusing terminology.

That website seems to confuse two very different behaviors:

bulletWhat it calls "voluntary euthanasia" (VE). They apparently define this as being able to request that a doctor withhold extraordinary treatment so that the disease will take its course and the patient will die sooner. This is legal in Canada now and is often practiced. The site strongly recommends that people prepare a living will in order to define what end-of-life procedures be used by their physicians.
 
bullet Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS). This involves allowing doctors to prescribe a fatal dose of medication to some terminally ill patients.  This is currently illegal in Canada and a change in the law to permit it has been debated in the Senate yearly without any change to the law.

The confusion is further complicated by the Wikipedia website. They have an essay on VE that considers it a synonym for physician assisted suicide (PAS). 5

Because terms like "euthanasia, "voluntary euthanasia" (VE), active euthanasia, passive euthanasia, etc. have so many definitions, we recommend that they be avoided wherever possible. The word "euthanasia" now covers a wide range of activities ranging from an individual taking their own life without any assistance from family, friend, or physician, to fictional roaming death squads periodically going to nursing homes and deciding who is going to be murdered without their consent.

The current debate in U.S. states and Canada is whether physicians should be allowed to prescribe a fatal dose of medication that their patient would consume later at home. This is often called "physician assisted suicide" or "PAS." We strongly recommend that this term be adopted by everyone advocating, writing, or talking about this topic.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Christopher Reed, "Oregon Tackles Mercy Killing", Globe and Mail, Toronto ON, 1997-JUN-27, P. A12.
  2. Susan Pigg, "Giving dignity to `bad deaths.' Park bench stickers could get folks talking about euthanasia, and the need for living wills," The Toronto Star, 2009-DEC-23, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  3. Right to Die Society of Canada's website is at: http://www.righttodie.ca/
  4. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition's website is at: http://www.euthanasiaprevention.on.ca/
  5. "Voluntary euthanasia," Wikipedia, as updated on 2009-DEC-17 at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics  > Assisted Suicide > here

or: Home page > "Hot" topics  > Suicide menu > Assisted Suicide > here

Copyright 1997 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated on 2010-SEP-03
Hyperlinks checked on 2008-APR-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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