Letters: 'There is no purpose, no merit to end-of-life suffering'

Maclean's readers write in

Marlene Cuthbert of Mississauga was at the Toronto rally and voiced her opinion. About 80 supporters of Dying With Dignity showed up outside of the 361 University Ave courthouse as a show of support for doctor assisted deaths - with nine other rallies across the country - coinciding with the hearing at the Supreme Court hearing on the Carter case. Wednesday October 15, 2014. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia)

Marlene Cuthbert of Mississauga a a Toronto rally. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia)

O’Leary, oh deary

Kevin O’Leary’s self-serving pronouncements are, if nothing else, exactly like his performances on television, momentary sources of entertainment: somewhat quizzical at times, perhaps, but causes of amusement, nonetheless. Since when does this avowed capitalist concern himself, even the slightest, about “jobs, jobs, jobs”? One of the all-time favourite pronouncements on Dragons’ Den is his frequent recommendation to wannabe venture starters to “build it in China, it’s a lot cheaper.” North Americans have become so mesmerized by the seemingly fabulous ability of the rich and famous to accumulate material things that we have come to totally ignore whatever talents these potential leaders may or may not possess in their skill sets at maintaining (and indeed, enhancing) good stewardship of our collective needs and social justice.

Edward P. Swynar, Newcastle, Ont.

Despite what you have written about Kevin O’Leary’s investments, I am pretty certain that he does not own “a California vintner.” As my husband stated, “That would be downright slavery!”

Diane May, Prince Albert, Sask.

Death becomes us

There is no purpose, no merit to end-of-life suffering, or irremediable suffering along the way when there is an alternative (“The new pro-choice,” Society, June 6). As a retired community nurse, I witnessed many home deaths. The Supreme Court of Canada has allowed personal choice: end of story. The parameters of this choice will come in due course. The next challenge will be to clone Vancouver’s Dr. Ellen Wiebe. We require many more like her: doctors with her compassion, her intelligence and kindness, her thoughtfulness.

Catherine Hammill, Kincardine, Ont.

Assisted dying has been practised for many years in Canada and elsewhere under the label “palliative care.” In many cases, medical staff do not force tube feeding, but simply provide drug injections and sponges for patients to suck on to ease the process of death by starvation and dehydration. Sister Nuala Kenny says she endorses palliative care to alleviate discomfort at the end of life. My own mother, suffering in an Alzheimer’s hospital wing in the U.S., was surrounded by many patients with extremely poor quality of life, sometimes cruelly described as “vegetables.” She never wanted to live or die that way. Several years before, she had prepared a medical directive against heroic measures to preserve her life that prevented forced feeding. She simply stopped eating and drinking, as did a friend’s mother in a similar situation here in Canada. The diagnosis from my mother’s nurses was: “They stop eating when they are dying.” Mercifully, my mother died within a week. The process can take much longer, as it did for my friend’s mother, who took over three weeks to die this way. The difference with assisted death is that the drugs are stronger, and they bring death faster.

Laura Reave, London, Ont.

If assisted death is the new pro-choice, thank you to the media for at least giving this issue more balanced coverage than they’ve given the abortion debate. It’s important that everyone who promotes the “choice” and “my body” position remember that, like abortion, assisted suicide involves more than the individual who wants to die. It involves caregivers, most of whom don’t want anything to do with this. It involves the medical system, the state, hospitals and taxpayers. Those who say assisted killing is about their autonomy need to remember that they’re helping to shape a culture where death may increasingly become the new preferred option.

Paul Schratz, director of communications, Archdiocese of Vancouver, Vancouver

There are those of certain religious persuasions who want to decide for everybody else what is right and wrong. The biggest sinner in this regard is the Roman Catholic Church. The slippery slope exists when somebody else is determined to decide. In this regard, we can consider the mentally ill, the mentally deficient and children to be not mature enough to decide, and nobody should assume the responsibility of deciding for them. It is irrelevant if the person wishing release is terminal, in pain or whatever. Sometimes sadness as well as pain and no hope of improvement are sufficient for a person to want out. Many old people are caught by despairing circumstances; if they want to go, so be it. But no nurse practitioner or physician should be required to assist in the process if it is against their beliefs. My own preference would be a prescription pill that the person takes on his or her own.

M.A. Rhodes, Nelson, B.C.

For all those fearless champions of palliative dying as opposed to “assisted dying”: At what point does denial of access to the ultimate painkiller (assisted dying) become denial of access to medical care per se? At what point is it medical malpractice of the worst kind, to a dying person enduring horrendous, non-stop physical and emotional pain?

Arnold Moritz, Prince George, B.C.

Daycare relief

To write in your June 6 Editorial that the Quebec-style daycare is associated with many negative results for children, including “greater stress, hyperactivity, aggression and crime,” without any explanation, is appalling. My child and all his friends attended daycare. They are wonderful kids and I don’t need to sleep with a gun, thank you.

Jean-François Dugas, Saint-Laurent, Que.

Commotion in the Commons

I believe PM Trudeau’s elbow incident was not intentional, however he had no business strutting across the floor and grabbing an opposition MP in the first place (“Trudeau’s very bad day,” National, June 6). He thinks he is still a bouncer. The apologies he gave shortly after the incident stem from his drama-teacher background. His arrogance and narcissistic behaviour is embarrassing and he needs to grow up and act like a real leader. During the past election, he was accused of being “not ready,” and he is now proving it daily.

Lindsay Hepburn, Ottawa

Millions have been invested by all levels of government in the anti-bullying message and on workplace standards. There can be absolutely none of the hypocrisy displayed by Trudeau in our House. The discussion in the House did not insult victims, but rather denounced the flagrant hypocrisy of our leader’s words and actions: tactics, words and actions that must be prevented from gaining acceptance in our Canadian society.

June Sheldrake, Hamilton

Many times I’ve been so flustered by the ongoing antics of our MPs that I find it difficult to form a sentence to get across just how fed up I am with their pompous showboating. I can’t remember the last time I heard so many allegedly important adults use words like “traumatic,” “devastating,” “physical molestation” and “state of shock” to describe something that would get you two minutes in the penalty box at most hockey games. I find it insulting that we taxpayers are expected to keep funding this “pathetic” (in the words of Tom Mulcair) soap opera of a Parliament.

Scott Mitchell, Burlington, Ont.

I particularly appreciated Scott Gilmore’s perspective in his column “An even more offensive display” (National, June 6), and Green Leader Elizabeth May’s comments in “Trudeau’s very bad day.” However, I still don’t understand why the NDP MPs were blocking Conservative MP Gordon Brown from going to his seat to vote to begin with. As a retired high school teacher, I do relate to Justin Trudeau’s impulse to get in there and fix the idiocy. He shouldn’t have touched anyone, but I empathize with the instinct. All through the election campaign the opposition tried to disparage Justin Trudeau as “just a teacher”—playing up the drama portion of his portfolio rather than the French and math aspects—as if possessing the intellect, wisdom and skill required to dedicate himself to a such a service is somehow an insult. Well, perhaps this is the incident where that career in mentoring and disciplining juveniles has come back to bite him, because, in his former job, he was also expected to take charge when something not right was happening. Finally, the fact that Trudeau immediately chased after NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau to try to apologize is to his credit. It speaks to Justin simply being an upright, decent, real human being.

Elinor Campbell-Lawrence, Kingston, Ont.

Thank you Scott Gilmore, for shining the light on the absolutely absurd behaviour of our elected officials after the “elbow incident.” While I don’t condone the actions of our PM, I shook my head in disbelief at the frankly insulting statements from the opposition. As a victim of childhood sexual assault and of countless episodes of sexual and physical harassment in the workplace (all reported, all ignored), the trumpeted “trauma” experienced by those on the Hill is laughable. Thank you for highlighting the issue perfectly.

Jessie Baynham, Guelph, Ont.

I “self-identify” as a small-l liberal, but couldn’t agree more with Scott Gilmore. The time spent debating Trudeau’s actions would have been five hours well spent debating solutions to real sexual assault rates. MPs should be ashamed in equating “Elbowgate” with sexual assault when most MPs likely have no real experience with what that means. Give up on the sanctimonious and the gratuitous and focus on Canada’s real problems according to how a parliamentary system is supposed to operate.

Ann Zimmerman, Tottenham, Ont.

Scott Feschuk’s column on the recent parliamentary dust-up (“Please give in memory of 5/18,” Feschuk, June 6) was brilliantly written. If something so minor as “Elbowgate” is going to cause that much consternation to some of our MPs, it makes me wonder how they’ll respond when there’s really something serious to deal with! Theatrics for the sake of theatrics, so immature.

Patricia Scanlon, Brighton, Ont.

Right Honorary Men

When Paul Martin Sr. was high commissioner in London in the ’70s, a decree came down that no Canadian diplomats could belong to men-only clubs, the type of which now appear to be under threat in the U.K. (“Bogey men,” International, June 6). Coming up was the annual get-together of the Canadian Club, of which Martin was the honorary president of a men-only event. He got around this decree with a decree of his own. Since the Canadian Club did not have a clubhouse, it was not really a club. His successor was Jean Casselman Wadds. Since our high commissioner was traditionally the honorary president, the club made her an honorary man.

Charles Rogers, former minister counsellor in London, 1978-82, Goderich, Ont.

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