Right to Death, Live to Write
Posted by Gina Storm Grant
Do you ever find that things come to you exactly when you need them? No sooner had my agent said, “Everyone’s looking for YA contemporaries right now,” when writerly pal Sherry Isaac said something that triggered THE BIG HIGH CONCEPT (and later, more input that served to round out TBHC).
Then a friend of Mr. Grumpy’s called me to ask if I could help his friend get her book published. The friend turned out to be both awesome and a lawyer, just when my plot points needed legal guidance.
Then a flyer came through the door advertising a Town Hall during which the discussion topic would be PHYSICIAN ASSISTED DYING. Tragically, I know more about the politics of Westeros than of Ontario. So yesterday I did the most political thing I’d done since marching with pro-choice hero Henry Morgentaler back in the 90s.
I went. And I took notes. What a fascinating discussion. Our MP, Carolyn Bennett, a physician by training, began the town hall with an open forum on any topic. People asked a wide range of questions and she was eloquent, informed and passionate on every subject, whether it was about the other party’s behaviour, or the proposed use of the North-West Passage. Wow!
Then she intro’d two experts on the subject of Physician Assisted Dying, both reputable and knowledgeable persons from relevant organizations. In February of this year, the law preventing physician assisted dying had been declared unconstitutional and struck down. It leaves a hole in the legal system during which the status quo stands, but the system is charged with developing a replacement law by February 2016.
Me? I’m all for it. But that’s not what I want to get into here. I’m a writer, I was interested in the process of the forum.
Taking the highly emotional subject matter out of the equation, the discussion itself was fascinating to me.
Each expert spoke for 10 minutes, rationally, factually, obviously preparedly. But following the separate speeches, they were allowed to debate each other. Then the emotions came into play.
Although they were diametrically opposed on the yes/no of the issue, when they elaborated, they were surprisingly close on their reasoning.
The language they used was interesting. I wouldn’t call it spin-doctoring, since that has pejorative connotations, but each used language positive to their stance, which only makes sense.
While Jack was pro and Michael was con, they both shared all the same concerns, that other forms of care should be considered/accessed first such as palliative care and pain strategies. That the decision process must have checks and balances. Both sides were concerned about potential mis-use of the law, should it be granted.
If I were in charge, I’d let the Jacks of the world run things, but in active consultation with the Michaels. They need each other.
The Town Hall was held in a nursing home, so most of the attendees were seniors. The general consensus in the room was that people should be allowed to make their own choices, which more than mirrored the stated fact that 84% of Canadians are in favor of physician assisted dying. In fact, I heard nothing to the contrary.
I left before the comments got heated, but by that point, nobody had mentioned God or religion. I can’t help but wonder how Oregon and Washington managed to get it passed.
So for the first time in ages, I actually hold an informed opinion. YMMV.
I might attend more of these things.