Good Life; Good Death — Part II 

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There was probably enough oxycodone lying around the house to do the job. But how could we be sure she'd slide gently into that good night and not into a different, prolonged nightmare? How could we do it without me being left to face an inevitable "assisting" charge?

And, quite honestly, I don't believe she had it in her to take her own life. Maybe it was some latent, Mennonite programming from her youth or maybe just that immobilizing fear of the stepping into the unknowable that stopped her. Regardless of how willing she was to let go of what was left of her life, she was going to require some help to take the final step. Maybe that help came on the sly from the good people at palliative care; maybe it didn't.

But it didn't come from an "enlightened" society. Our social, political and medical model is one that insists we allow people to suffer in a way we'd be fined or jailed for if they were our pets. Simultaneously, it's one that condemns — either actively or passively — what appears to me and a lot of other people to be a perfectly rational decision by someone like Ruth Goodman to end her life as she lived it: on her own terms.

I've been surprised, not always pleasantly, by people whose response to her story has been to suggest she must have been suffering from depression or some other mental disorder the medical-pharmaceutical complex could lob drugs at to "treat."

Well, hell, maybe she was depressed. Let's see, she was 91, in reasonably good health, leading a happy life but with an overwhelming desire to not live out her final years as, surely, she'd seen so many of her friends do — dependent, frail shells of the people they once were, waiting around to die a "natural" death. Yeah, I find that prospect depressing. And I think exercising the choice to step off stage before the final curtain is a completely rational response; one I hope I have the strength of character to perform when the time comes.

That's the rub. No one knows for sure when the time comes. Almost everyone wants to wait until... until... until it's too late. Until they need help to end their life. But with few exceptions, none in Canada, there isn't any help other than self-help.

Notwithstanding the tiny inroads made last year when the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the federal law making suicide assistance a crime discriminated against terminally ill patients with disabilities — the inability to take their own life — there is unlikely to be a rush to legalize physician assisted suicide in the province or anywhere else in Canada. The opposition is formidable.

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