Dying with dignity

By: Jennifer Pretty Jul 03, 2012
physician-assisted suicide

We’ve all been there. Something just isn’t right with your family dog. He’s lethargic, isn’t eating and he just isn’t the lively, exuberant pup that he usually is. What you do know is that he is a huge part of the family. He’s been with you for nearly every family holiday. He offered you endless puppy kisses and waits patiently by the door for you to arrive home from work each day. So you had to take him to the vet to see why he’s just not right, and she confirms your worst suspicions. Your loveable pet has an inoperable tumour above his left temple.

He has lived a good life, hasn’t he? Tumours are painful and death from cancer is slow, torturous and nothing you want to see a beloved member of your family go through. Gathering your family together, you agree that it’s time to put him to sleep. There’s no need to make him suffer just so you can hold on to a few extra months. So you go to the vet, who brings you to a private room so you can hold him as he peacefully, and without pain, drifts into one long sleep, from which he will never awaken. No pain, no agony, no sadness in his eyes, no trying to be strong for you, all because you did the humane thing – for all of you and for him.

Everybody loved your dog and agreed that he is in a better place. Nobody questioned why you put him to sleep. It was the right thing to do for him. No need to make him suffer needlessly, your family is at peace with its decision.

Why is it that we cannot extend the same kindness to a person who is terminal with cancer, leukemia, or any number of other illnesses? Why is it wrought with such controversy that only four countries allow physician-assisted suicide in humans?

Why did it take Gloria Taylor, a B.C. woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease three years in court, which was escalated to the B.C. Supreme Court, necessitating 395 pages of ruling by Justice Lynn Smith, threats by several coalitions (who have never met the woman at the centre of this case) to overturn the decision to seek physician-assisted suicide for her terminal illness?

Ms. Taylor is not the first person in Canada to ask for the legal right to die with dignity. Numerous people have tried and failed. You may recall in 1992 when Sue Rodriguez, of Victoria, took her fight all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Also battling Lou Gehrig’s disease, her case was denied. Following the decision, which 4 out of the 5 justices agreed on, Ms. Rodriguez replied, “If I cannot give my consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?” Facing an agonizing death, she responded to the ruling by committing suicide.

Citing that suicide is a sin is the argument most often used by opponents of physician-assisted suicide, but is it not a travesty to watch a loved one suffer the ravages of terminal illness?

Why is it that we can allow our family pets to die with dignity and not people?


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!


Jennifer Pretty began her career as the director of artist development for a well-known Canadian music label. Branching out on her own, she then started her own PR business “Pretty Media Management” planning and hosting various charity, entertainment and fashion events. As a dance and fitness class enthusiast Jennifer is a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. She also loves to cook, travel, spend time with family and friends and most importantly living life to the fullest!