A video made by prominent microbiologist Doctor Donald Low just days before his death has re-ignited the debate over doctor assisted suicide.
A decade ago, when SARS was sweeping through Toronto, Dr. Donald Low was the face of the medical community, battling to save lives. However, at the end of his own life, he didn’t want help to live. He wanted help to die.
Low made a powerful video in his dying days, advocating for the right to assisted death, or assisted suicide as some call it. Crushed by a terminal brain tumor that was rapidly stealing his ability to function on even a basic level, Low acknowledged that there are many who oppose his request, but perhaps few, who truly understand it.
In the video, Low says, “I wish they could live in my body for 24 hours.I think they would change that opinion”
Low’s wife Maureen Taylor is a former broadcaster, and registered physician’s assistant. She has worked with dying patients, and watched her husband die. She believes the time has come for Canada to allow assisted death, saying “I will be asking politicains about the issue in the future, and I’m asking family and friends who want to pay tribute to Don to do the same thing”
But according to a medical ethicist, asking and doing are two different things. Lisa Schwartz says society is polarized between those who support end of life choices, and those who oppose them on a variety of medical, and practical grounds. She says, “what happens, I think, in the middle is this uncertain territory of who is doing to do the job.”
Schwartz says many members of the medical community, are reluctant to be involved in ending the lives of terminal patients, because it contradicts their own sense, of their chosen career paths. That’s just one of many objections raised by those who oppose assisted death, but Maureen Taylor is confident that those objections can be answered. some Queens Park politicians, are ready to explore that possibility.
Maureen Taylor says “studies have been done that say people are not abusing it, we’re not seeing people try to off their elderly parents in the nursing home.”
Ontario’s health minister, however, seems less certain. Deb Matthews says, “I think it’s a conversation that we need to have, but at the moment my focus is on absolutely improving end of life care”.