This article by Jean Echlin first appeared in the Canadian Newspaper, The Windsor Star under the title: How do you neutralize death?
The push by those driving the “dying with dignity” groups, including much of our media, to neutralize the terms euthanasia and assisted suicide now includes the Canadian Nurses Association, our national voice.
This came as a shock and disappointment to many of us classified as registered nurses with licensure to practice nursing in Canada. As well, many are profoundly concerned in light of the Quebec National Assembly’s stab at sanctifying euthanasia through Bill-52 by linking it directly to hospice palliative care.
The Quebec government has designated doctors as euthanizers. Many Quebec doctors have said “no.” Bill-52 is lethal and provides fertile ground for abuse. There is no protection for the vulnerable. The bill is currently on hold until the Quebec election.
This lack of humanity and vision should be worrisome to everyone, including retirees, older persons, individuals with any type of disability (emotional or physical) and residents of long-term care facilities.
Instead of recognizing the strides that have been made in the management of pain and noxious symptoms by hospice palliative care specialists over more than three decades, a few want to kill or be killed as a solution. So much for the so-called demanding autonomy of “I want what I want when I want it.”
We are experiencing a death by execution culture, morbidly concentrating on euthanizing and hastening death. The more gruesome the situation, the more it is capitalized on and highlighted. What happens that Canadians must suffer any type of painful death? It signifies failure in a system that knows better. We are failing to teach hospice palliative care and pain management for all types of pain — physical, emotional, spiritual/ existential — to our nursing and medical students. We fail to provide funding for excellence in end-of-life care. We fail to conduct ongoing education for our current care providers. We have failed to teach Canadians what is and should be available to everyone during a life-threatening or terminal illness.
Can you imagine a professor teaching nursing students how to do a lethal injection? How would the management of seizures, choking, vomiting and not dying as side effects be taught? This is described by doctors in Belgium.
Can you imagine a nurse or doctor entering a patient’s room with a needle/syringe loaded with drugs to kill? Can you envision pulling an “exit bag” over the head of a loved one and holding it there even if the person struggles? Can you envision a fatal dose coming your way without your knowledge or consent?
It is happening now in our country as well as the Netherlands. Belgium reeks of abuse and now extends euthanasia to children and teens. Some with little respect for life will say: “That’s so cool !” This, despite suicide prevention as a major societal concern.
There is no nursing theory or framework that endorses nurses deliberately taking the life of an individual for whom they should be honoured to provide care. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are not within our mandate and, in fact, are the highest and most malignant forms of abuse, violence and unethical behaviour.
Can death be neutralized by dumbing down the words euthanasia or assisted suicide to “aid in dying?”
We all need and want care/aid/help when dying. To say less is absurd. When death occurs by induction, no words can sugar coat the facts.
Jean Echlin is a nurse consultant in palliative care and gerontology and an adjunct associate professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor.