Bill 52: How about “living” with dignity? The dying is hard enough.

Par Beryl Wajsman le 26 mai 2014

The problem with prohibitionary law, is that when the prohibitions are lifted, a new set of problems can arise.  Government intervention in our privates lives and choices will always present such problems and dilemmas. And this is true with the re-introduced “Dying with dignity” Bill 52.

The new Liberal government has brought forth this PQ legislation into the Assembly as one of its first orders of business. It will pass unanimously in all likelihood. But this question would never have arisen if all governments had stayed loyal to a fundamental principle of natural justice that personal moral choices by adults should be outside the purview of the state. That people should be allowed to “live” with dignity. The dignity of being free from needless intrusions by agents of government. And this is true not only for individuals making the final decision about the end of their lives, but about all elements of personal morality in all things that involve adult consent. Regulating morality – whether virtue or vice – is fundamentally illiberal. The essence of a free society is the freedom to choose, even to choose badly. As civil rights champion Julius Grey has said so many times in so many places, “Legislated niceness - and its enforcement - is usually not very nice.”

But prohibitions should be lifted. So why not celebrate this law unconditionally? Because in a jurisdiction like Quebec - fundamentally operated on a statist mentality that hopefully this government will change – a word of caution is necessary. Quebec’s statism is manifested through enormous power vested in its bureaucrats in all areas that affect our lives from justice to revenue to healthcare. And it is in the latter that there could be cause for concern.

If this law is meant only to increase the individual choices of adults, then clearly it’s time has come. But in no manner, should there be any regulation amended to it that opens the door even a crack for bureaucrats to decide to terminate life no matter how aged the patient or what condition they are in. That decision must always be left to patients, family, friends and the treating physicians. 

The reason we raise this issue is that even today a great burden is placed on doctors and nurses by bureaucrats who issue protocols and dictates setting parameters and demanding information on how much, and what kind of, treatment is given to patients. This is all done supposedly in the name of efficiency, when in fact it is done to pinch pennies. In a healthcare system where 52% of the personnel are bureaucrats having nothing to do with the delivery of medical care yet nothing is done to reduce their number because of fear of unions, it is the patient who always suffers. In comparison, France’s healthcare bureaucracy is only 36% of personnel. We must guard against any kind of creeping state involvement where the Kafkaesque prospect of terminating lives for budgetary purposes is sold to the public as a mere “extension” of “dying with dignity.” There needs to be a firewall against any possibility of this happening.

Lifting prohibitions should always be about “living with dignity.” The dying is hard enough.

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Beryl P. Wajsman

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