Windsor Essex Chapter: Debate on doctor-assisted suicide ‘flying below the radar’ this election

Click here to read ‘Debate on doctor-assisted suicide ‘flying below the radar’ this election‘ – CBC News Windsor, September 16, 2015.

A seniors’ advocacy group wants to get the public and politicians talking about the issue of doctor-assisted suicide, as it gets closer to becoming a legal reality in Canada.

The local CARP chapter in Windsor-Essex is holding an information session on Wednesday evening, which relates to the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling on doctor-assisted suicide from earlier this year.

Organizers say it’s a topic that is not getting the attention it deserves during the current federal election campaign.

“It’s flying below the radar,” said Larry Duffield of the Windsor-Essex CARP chapter. “We don’t see the politicians raising it, so we’d like to raise it with them.”

In February, the country’s top court ruled that people suffering from grievous and irremediable medical conditions should have the right to ask a doctor to help them die. The federal and provincial governments are now obligated to write new legislation to respond to the court’s ruling.

Duffield said the issue is of particular importance to seniors.

“They’re the ones most often to face this kind of decision. They should have some sort of a role, some sort of an input into the forming of this legislation,” he said.

CARP is hoping to get people talking about the issue during the event, which is being held at Windsor’s Caboto Club on Wednesday evening.

Local resident Conrad Dippel is among the people speaking at the event..

Earlier in the day, Dippel spoke to CBC Radio’s Windsor Morning about the journey he and his wife took after she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which prompted her decision to end her life.

“She had had close experience with Alzheimer’s disease, with her father having had the disease, and she did not want to go through that herself,” Dippel said.

“She wanted to have choice in when she died and hopefully, she wanted to be with family and friends and die a dignified death.”

‘The doors were shut’

When Dippel and his wife sought to learn about their options in Canada, it became clear that they would not be able to pursue an assisted suicide within the country.

“Very firmly, the doors were shut in our faces,” Dippel said, which was why he and his wife turned to Switzerland.

“When the doors were closed here in Canada, we independently just contacted an organization in Switzerland and went through that process,” he said.

“It was a very lengthy, difficult and timely process to pass all the hurdles to be allowed to go there, but eventually my wife was able to get what she wanted.”

The system in place in Switzerland leaves the individual with the choice to end their lives or change their minds. Dippel’s wife decided to end her life.

“She was very determined that that’s what she wanted. In the end, I was very relieved that she was able to die with dignity with her family by her side,” said Dippel.

Two years after his wife’s death, Dippel describes himself as an advocate for the discussion on assisted suicide, as opposed to an advocate for assisted suicide itself.

“Given my experience with what happened with my wife, I’m certainly in favour of the laws in Canada broadening in assisted suicide,” he said.

“But what’s more important than those laws broadening, to me, is to raise the general discussion in Canada so that we can have enough public that are informed and have thought about this issue so maybe those laws can reflect a broader group of people.”