Dr. Donald Low pleads for legalized assisted suicide in posthumous video - Macleans.ca

Dr. Donald Low pleads for legalized assisted suicide in posthumous video

‘I wish they could live in my body for 24 hours’


TORONTO – The infectious disease doctor who guided Toronto through the 2003 SARS crisis made an appeal prior to his death for Canada to change the law and legalize assisted suicide.

Dr. Donald Low made his plea in an emotional video shot eight days before his death last week from a brain tumour. He was 68.

In the video posted Tuesday on YouTube, Low says he does not fear death and is not in pain but worries about what will happen before the end.

Low says he would like the option of choosing when he will die, before the disease renders him incapable of walking, swallowing food or using the bathroom without assistance.

He says he is envious of people living in some U.S. states and countries such as Switzerland and the Netherlands where assisted suicide is legal.

Low pleads with Canadian doctors and others who are against assisted suicide to rethink their opposition to letting terminally ill patients die with dignity.

“I wish they could live in my body for 24 hours and I think they would change that opinion,” he said. “I’m just frustrated not to be able to have control of my own life. Not being able to have the decision for myself when enough is enough.

“In Canada, it’s illegal and it will be a long time where we mature to a level where there’s dying with dignity.”

A statement on the video says Low “did not have the death he had hoped for, but he died in his wife’s arms and was not in pain.”

RELATED: In 2011, Maclean’s British Columbia bureau chief Ken MacQueen spoke with the family of Kathleen (Kay) Carter, a 89-year-old who travelled to Switzerland so she could end her life in a country where assisted suicide is legal. Read the full interview here.


Dr. Donald Low pleads for legalized assisted suicide in posthumous video

  1. Powerful message. This is what we wanted for our mother — the power to make decisions about one’s own life. Simply the power to choose when, as Dr Low says, “enough is enough.” Rest in peace, Dr Low, and thank you for speaking out to your peers.

  2. What a brave man! Let our compassion for death with dignity and peace of mind become a reality in Canada.

  3. You cannot institutionalize the killing of human beings without killing people you don’t mean to kill.

  4. Despite the Harper government’s dismissive response to questions arising from the release of this video, stating they have no intention of changing policy on assisted suicide, Canadians desire a full and frank national conversation on this issue.

    • One of harper’s ministers, Stephen Fletcher, spoke in favour of assisted suicide on Power and Politics yesterday. Maybe, maybe maybe we will get some movement on this. All I know is: anyone who sees a loved one go through palliative care would support this because, as Dr Low says, once you are being told you cannot get up to go to the bathroom any more, so just go where you are laying and we will clean you up — well, you will embrace this as a positive in our society.

      I honestly believe that just knowing that option exists would be enough for many people — in other words, I don’t know how many would choose the cocktail in time — but we deserve that option. There’s nowhere else to go and things can get rough.

      • Hadn’t heard Fletcher’s comments. Encouraging. Excellent point about having the option vs exercising it.

  5. Didn’t Parliament just vote on this a few years ago? And a free vote. And in a minority parliament. And wasn’t it rejected.

    Isn’t a vote once a generation, or at least once per government, enough?

    If the government were to have a new vote on abortion every year, most the same people and media who are asking for another vote on assisted suicide would be outraged.

    If Quebec sovereignistes were having a new vote on sovereignty every year, most of us would be outraged.

    The 2010 vote should have settled the issue for a generation. Revisit it in 2030, at the earliest.