Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide is when someone commits suicide with the help of another person. If a patient is suffering from an incurable illness or chronic intense pain, a doctor may help that person to commit suicide. This is not the same thing as euthanasia. With euthanasia, someone else ends the patient's life as painlessly as possible.

Assisted suicide is illegal in many countries, including Canada. However, there is a growing number of people that want to change the law to allow assisted suicide.

Euthanasia can be active, for example, a doctor may give a lethal injection to a patient. Euthanasia can also be passive, like when a patient's heart stops and the doctor doesn't resuscitate the patient.

The issue of assisted suicide has been debated for many years. In the 1970s, when technological advances allowed doctors to keep patients alive longer, a series of court cases gave people the right to refuse medical treatment. However, assisted suicide is still illegal.

In 1992, Sue Rodriguez, diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, asked legislators to change the law banning assisted suicide. "If I cannot give consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?" she said.

The Supreme Court of Canada ultimately ruled against Rodriguez, but several judges said that the law has to be changed to help people who are living with incurable illnesses.

Those who oppose assisted suicide say that if it was legal, people who are ill might be coerced into assisted suicide because they might be seen as a burden. Also, some religious people say that only God can decide one's time of death.

Those who want assisted suicide to be legalized say that individuals should be in control of their own lives, including their death.

Source: "The fight for the right to die." CBC News. 9 Feb 2009.