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  • Assisted Dying Ruling Offers Choice

    February 20th, 2015

    by Janet Madsen  |  @janet_madsen

    Back in the early days of AIDS, before treatments made life possible or even potentially long like it is now, people died a lot, and often horrifically. It’s not a pleasant thing to remember, but that was the way it went. Russel Ogden was doing research on assisted suicide in the HIV community, interviewing people about their wishes to make decisions about ending their lives if they became unbearable- too sick, too demented to go on. morguefile-michelle-bulgaria

    Dying isn’t something people generally want to ponder, but at some point we all have to, no matter what. A 2001 study of over 2700 people with HIV in Europe found that the majority wanted the option of legalized euthanasia   While that urgency may have shifted from the HIV community with the success of treatment; there has been ongoing demand from many Canadians who face inevitably difficult deaths. They want the option to make choices about their deaths. Sue Rodriguez, Gloria Taylor and Gillian Bennett are just three of those whose diagnoses urged them to fight for the right to choose their own deaths- they were going to die anyway and wanted to do so with as much dignity as possible.

    Quebec led the way on dying with dignity legislation last year with Bill 52 that “outlines the conditions in which a terminally ill adult patient who is of sound mind may request continuous palliative sedation that would lead to death.”   The Supreme Court of Canada decided for the rest of the country on February 6, ruling that those with “grievous and irremediable medical conditions should have the right to ask a doctor to help them die.” Parliament has a year to sort out how, and when this will work, and Justin Trudeau is bidding the work should start now.

    The BC Civil Liberties Association called the decisiona tremendous victory for the protection of human rights and compassion at the end of life.” Dying With Dignity Canada welcomed the decision while recognizing it as bittersweet as well. The Canadian Medical Association notes that doctors have mixed reactions and should not be compelled to assist in a death if it’s against their conscience. This is new ground that needs to be moved through carefully, honourably.

    Thank science and good supportive care that an HIV diagnosis doesn’t mean the quick death it once did. Thank advocates that should anyone get to a point where assisted dying is an informed and desirable choice, the option will be available.


    Read the Supreme Court Ruling
    What you need to know about Carter v. Canada: the death with dignity decision
    Assisted suicide laws: Rooted in the Pacific Northwest, by Douglas Todd


    Photo: Michelle Bulgaria, MorgueFile

    This week is about all kinds of love

    February 12th, 2015

    srhby Erin Seatter | @erinlynds

    Yesterday was Sexual and Reproductive Health Day, and we marked the occasion by sending a couple of staff members to Options for Sexual Health’s annual breakfast.

    This year’s event featured Heather Corrina. In 1998 she founded Scarleteen, a website dedicated to providing youth with engaging information about sex. With titles like “The Sex Goddess Blues: Building Sexual Confidence, Busting Perfectionism,” “Dealing With Doctors: Taking Control of Your Health Care Destiny,” and “Hi, my name is Polyqueergenderqueer,” articles cover more than just the usual topics of anatomy, reproduction, and sexually transmitted infections. They dig into how we feel about our bodies, how we develop our identities, how we can navigate the tricky parts of relationships. There’s even a category devoted to sexual politics.

    When Heather spoke at the event, she emphasized that sexual health education should encompass the big picture. When you teach someone how to navigate desire and pleasure, they build confidence and can use condoms with more ease, she said.

    Sex ed should not be limited to goals such as prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, according to Heather. It should teach us how to love ourselves and our bodies.

    Just imagine if all youth got that the kind of sex ed. How much better do you think all aspects of our health would be?