Thursday, October 16, 2014

Is it that difficult to get your questions right, Globe and Mail?

The Globe and Mail newspaper has done a pretty sterling job covering the ongoing proceedings on end-of-life matters in Canada. Reporting has been well-informed and its editorialising has been supportive of the decriminalisation of assisted dying in the country.

Yesterday though, the paper flunked it. It tried to have yet another for-and-against on the subject matter. I don't blame the paper, the issue is currently heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, it's a big issue (right next to that non-issue, Ebola scare in Belleville). The for and against asked Margaret Somerville (mysteriously introduced as one of Canada's best-known experts on the subject) and Arthur Schafer to address the question of whether doctors should be permitted to accede to patient requests for assisted dying. Not unexpectedly, the two contenders had nothing new to say, but nonetheless their comments were the starting point for a lively debate among Globe and Mail readers.

What I found shocking is that the paper didn't manage to phrase the question correctly. It asked: 'Should patients be allowed to request suicide?' Well, obviously, this isn't the question at all.

Canadians are legally permitted to ask this question of anyone at any time. Nobody is questioning Canadians' right to request assisted dying (it's about assisted suicide/voluntary euthanasia, btw, not about suicide, dear Globe and Mail). The real issue is whether health care professionals should be permitted to accede to such requests. That the paper didn't quite get to asking its 'best-known experts'. Bit disappointing.

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