Re: "Assisted suicide, euthanasia very different issues," Oct. 31.
Euthanasia is an act or omission of an act that is done to directly and intentionally cause the death of another person to end suffering. Assisted suicide is when one person aids or counsels another person to commit suicide. The difference in these approaches is who completes the act.
Assisted suicide violates the autonomy of the human being and can be labelled as a drastic act.
As a physician in the palliative care ward of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, I was privileged to be involved in a completely different approach to the care of the terminal ill. The service was initiated by the outstanding cancer surgeon Dr. Balfour Mount. His ward was the first one in North America and there are now 1,400 units all over Canada and the U.S.
We have an excellent service at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. It provides skilled and humanitarian assistance to about 250 patients. The philosophy of this care is based on the premises that life is intrinsically valuable.
Palliative care, or hospice care, as it is known in the West, promotes the quality of care for the dying and the elderly. It aims to control pain and severe symptoms even if the treatment leads to indirect death. It provides medical, psychological and spiritual support to those who are dying from cancer or other serious life-threatening illnesses.
Withdrawing of treatment, which happens often in palliative care, cannot be regarded as euthanasia.
I strongly believe that hospice care is the type of care for the dying we should adopt.
E.G.Q. Van Tilburg
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