Suddenly, assisted suicide is everywhere. At least, talking about this once forbidden subject is everywhere.

The Federal Liberal Caucus and the Quebec Government have weighed in on it. The police and legal system have certainly acted on it. Last September, Dr. Donald Lowe, the man who guided Canada through the SARS crisis, made a video released days after he died asking why he couldn’t end his life rather than waste away from the brain tumor that killed him.

The Belgians, Dutch and Swiss have laid out the pathways that families need to follow in order to get to the end-path. It’s not easy or quick. Asking someone to end your life requires consultations with two and often three doctors. The Belgians instituted a legislated program in 2002 enabling individuals to control their exit from life. However, they claim there hasn’t been the dreaded escalation in requests beyond an annual base rate of just over 1,200 since it began.

Most of the Belgians in question are in their 70’s and most have terminal cancer.

Control and self-determination, those touchstones of who we are and what we hold most dear, are at the heart of this issue.

But there are two new provisions that have driven people of all ages and persuasions to the barricades: intractable mental illness or severe handicap in someone under the age of 18 who can understand the ramifications of their choice.

But there’s also a third new ‘allowance,’ one that’s even stickier for any country with an aging population: progressive Alzheimer’s disease.

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