Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, has called for national and regional dialogue on the issue of euthanasia and other health-related laws that involve the rights of the parties involved, as the region seeks to reform its health sectors.
He made this call as he addressed a strategy meeting for Health-Related Law: Sensitisation, Dissemination and Implementation in the English-Speaking Eastern Caribbean Countries at the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) today.
“… If we guarantee individuals the freedom of speech, the freedom of property, freedom of movement, should we not guarantee them also the freedom to choose to die, and die with dignity if they so desire?” the Minister queried.
Highlighting a personal example of his brother who is “quite ill”, Mr. Brathwaite stressed that at some point, Barbados and the region would have to address the issue where persons who are gravely ill are given the freedom to choose whether or not they want to die.
“…We all accept that we are going to die, what we fear most is the process, and what we don’t want most is the suffering that we have seen many of our friends and family go through. It is a discussion that we should have as a region and as a country,” he stated.
On the other hand, the Minister has also called on stakeholders to closely examine the issue of organ donation. “Should we not accept that as a modern country, within a modern context [that] we should make provisions for an individual to donate any or all of his organs upon death?” he queried.
However, he noted that the appropriate legal framework would first need to be in place in order to ensure that the process was transparent and acceptable.
Another area singled out by the Attorney General for discussion was that of decriminalising small quantities of marijuana. And, he has called on medical professionals across the region to let their voices be heard on this matter.
“While the legal practitioners are saying let us decriminalise small quantities of marijuana because it is clogging up the legal system, we are not hearing the health professionals say the other side of the coin is you may be exposing more of our young people to risks. I would like to hear from the health professionals in this area across the region,” he stressed.
Making reference to recent challenges experienced by members of the Barbados Association of Retired Persons for health insurance, Mr. Brathwaite stated discussions needed to be held and the appropriate policy developed to protect a person’s right to acceptable health insurance coverage after the age of 50.
The two-day meeting is being hosted by PAHO and the World Health Organization, and is designed to support member states in the process of reviewing, formulating and reforming national health-related laws and regulations.
Special working group sessions will focus on the areas of mental health, HIV and road safety.