Thursday, January 22, 2015

An Undignified Contrast: Canada, California and Death With Dignity

I was surprised on Wednesday to discover in my feed a story from CBC about Dying With Dignity having its charitable status revoked by the Canada Revenue Agency. While the organization has worked to make lemonade from the decision, stating that as a non-profit it will have more flexibility to directly lobby for legislative and policy changes, the decision still fails the smell test as other organizations who are much more active politically retained their charitable status.

In contrast I read about the introduction of Right-to-Die legislation in California in the wake of Brittany Maynard's death. This will provide Californians with an opportunity to debate the issue, to determine which arguments are valid and which can be set aside, and if some Death With Dignity measure is adopted, to put in place safeguards to avoid abuse or pressure on those who are ill.

While Canada is often touted as being more progressive than the US and more tolerant on issues, this appears to be one topic where we've allowed our government to promote some views over others, which restricts free discourse as much as the prohibition of unpopular views.

On a positive note, any donations made to Dying With Dignity before their status change will be eligible as a tax donation and will be able to be used by them after their change in status. So if you can, help them set up some financial reserves to assist in the transition and to help them achieve their new mandate.

Even if you don't support their message or are uncertain about where you stand (while I fully support self-determination and assisted suicide to ensure death with dignity, I don't get warm fuzzies about euthanasia and don't currently support someone making the choice for others) supporting them will ensure that the discussion continues and that people have access to information so they can reflect and come to informed decisions about an important topic.

So kudos to California for taking the next step in an important social discourse, and Canada let's work to ensure that we maintain the ability to do the same.

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