Representatives of the medical and Christian community are recommending a national consultation on the merits and demerits of legalising assisted suicide.
That consensus emerged on Monday night during another Man Talk discussion series on the topic, Should Euthanasia Be Legalised in Barbados?, organised by the Men’s Ministry of the Cave Hill Wesleyan Holiness Church.
Sitting on the panel were executive member of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) Dr Adrian Waterman, chairman of the Barbados Christian Council (BXC) Rev Dr Cicely Athill-Horsford, and former Attorney General and supporter of euthanasia, Adriel Brathwaite.
Rev Athill-Horsford said she will start a major discussion in the church on mercy killing and seek a common position among members of the Christian Council.
“I want us to continue the discussion on this topic, in every area of the country, in the church and outside of the church, to get the views of everyone so that we can be able to make a positive decision and have a positive outcome. The decisions we make have implications for us as a nation and citizens to live by,” the BXC leader declared.
She said while Barbadians pride themselves on living in a free society, the rights that are enjoyed must be protected.
“But we must balance this against responsibilities and restrictions if we are to be truly free,” the church leader contended.
Rev Athill-Horsford was adamant that she did not support euthanasia, just as she rejected the death penalty in which the state “kills” a person convicted of murder.
“If I visited someone who is terminally ill and that person asks for my assistance in dying, I know that I don’t have any right whatsoever to assist,” she said.
Dr Waterman, an anesthesiologist, said BAMP did not yet have a position on assisted suicide but one was forthcoming.
“They are still reviewing the policies and protocols. When it is prepared, [BAMP president] Dr [Lynda] Williams will release the consensus on that. But for right now, she believes we should have as much debate on it as possible,” he said.
“I hope I can offer some educational points and I am always open to being educated as well. I do believe in the importance of the church. More importantly, I do believe in a person’s right to choose appropriately. As you all have mentioned, I hope we definitely go forward and that we don’t only make this talk. We are fantastic as Barbadians giving talks…fantastic at forgetting the next two weeks. So, I hope we can action it.
“If we do action it… we don’t have to invent the wheel, but we can improve on the way forward,” added the doctor who also specialises in pain management.
Meanwhile, Brathwaite recounted his experience of visiting a friend who had been in a hospice in Trinidad for a couple of years.
“It was one of the saddest moments of my life. The family, of course, continued to visit her in hope. And I thought then, as I do now, that I truly would like the option if I ever reached that stage to determine whether or not I should continue to live, and the state should not take that right away from me,” he contended.
The former Attorney General argued that the same way Barbadians are guaranteed a right to life and property under the Constitution, “I think we should equally guarantee people the right to die with dignity if they so desire”.
“We need to have these kinds of discussions. I don’t believe as a country that we are starting to have the conversation but I am glad that you [Cave Hill Church] did because this is the kind of thing we need to have a chat about,” Brathwaite added.