Front-page New York Times story makes clear the overwhelming importance of medical aid in dying

Here’s another major milestone for our movement:  the publication of a very long (more than six full newspaper pages) front-page story in the New York Times on Sunday, May 25, 2017, profiling John Shields, a distinguished Canadian dying from amyloidosis, who took advantage of Canada’s new medical aid in dying law and ended his life peacefully last March.

The Canadian law went into effect in June, 2016, and in its first six months, 803 people used it.  The articles describes its features:  “Participants must be adults who are in an advanced state of a ‘grievous and irremediable medical condition.’  Their suffering must be intolerable and their natural death ‘reasonably forseeable’ … Patients must also be deemed mentally capable of consenting to the procedure moments before it happens.”

These features are similar to the US laws, and like the US laws, the Canadian law allows a doctor to provide medications which the patient will self-administer to end their life.  But the Canadian law also allows the doctor to directly administer the medications.  Nearly everyone chooses doctor administration, the articles notes.  (Editor’s note:  not surprising.)

Mr. Shields’ doctor, Stephanie Green, explained why medical aid in dying is a blessing.  “You don’t judge a civilization by its riches, but by how it treats its vulnerable … I think this is a mark of our humanity.’  She’s never understood doctors who say offering lethal medicine goes against their training.  ‘I think people go into medicine because they want to help people,’ she said.  ‘This is on the continuum of care of helping people.'”

Mr. Shields is quoted explaining why he was ending his life:  “No matter how I looked at it, I saw pain.  No matter how I looked at my life from this moment on, I see personal, physical unbearable suffering.  I don’t want to suffer anymore.”  He died with courage and beauty, an example and a lesson to us all.  Thank you, John Shields, thank you, Dr. Stephanie Green, and thank you to the brave legislators and wise jurists of Canada who have given us this wonderful law.