Pre-Natural Death

Canadian Assisted Suicide Continues Unabated

In March 2023, Canada’s MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) law will no longer require a foreseeable death diagnosis for assisted suicide and euthanasia. Rather, a mental illness, such as depression or a personality disorder, will be a sole qualifier. In 2021, approximately 10,000 Canadians died through assisted death - a 32 percent increase from 2020. Loosening restrictions to allow medically assisted death for mental illness will only increase this number to an even more alarming rate.

While assessments are used to determine whether the sufferer has an incurable medical condition, can physicians truly say without a doubt that sufferers will never learn to manage their conditions? There are also said to be safeguards in place that require physicians to inform patients of alternative options, such as counseling and support services, but living under the coercive shadow of assisted death, how effective are these safeguards? As mental health conditions can take years of treatment to reach a place of stability, having assisted death for mental illness opens the door for despondent sufferers to skip the prospect of a lengthy treatment process and go straight to ending their lives. The mindset of treating ailing persons as economic burdens and, worse, as sources for transplantable organs, dehumanizes them and leads to their being coerced into pre-natural deaths.

Financial coercion

In 2017, a year after Canada legalized MAiD, researchers from the University of Calgary proposed that assisted death could potentially save Canada millions of dollars a year, since healthcare costs increase exponentially toward the end of life. The researchers stated that cost shouldn't be a factor in physicians or patients suggesting assisted death; however, coercion and denial of care exist inextricably with these dehumanizing practices, as the experiences of the terminally ill clearly show.

For instance, a disabled, award-winning Paralympian veteran in Canada was recently offered assisted suicide by the Department of Veterans affairs after requesting a wheelchair ramp for her house. Another patient having a degenerative brain disorder inquired about plans for his long-term care and was instead informed of the high cost such care would require. He was then asked if he had an interest in assisted dying. As the thought of killing himself had never entered his mind, the coercion to do so appalled him.

One disabled Canadian man living on government assistance feared homelessness because he couldn’t afford the housing that was available to him. This fear led him to request euthanasia, and a physician indeed signed off on his request. This is a man who stated that he didn’t want to die, but feared he had no other option, given his condition. Regardless of what housing resources may or may not have been available to him, no physician should ever sign off on a request for death because of someone’s lack of finances.

This coercion is also taking place in the United States. In April 2020, a man with severe physical and mental disabilities was refused testing for Covid because a staff member stated that testing him would be “a waste of valuable PPE.” When he returned after his treatment for what turned out to be pneumonia, it was suggested to his group home that they stop his nutrition and personal care because of his “low quality of life.”

Further, a man who had brain cancer was assured he would die within four months. Refusing the offered “early out,” he lived three years more. He spoke about how vulnerable patients like him are endangered by doctors seemingly pushing for assisted suicide. Understandably, his dire (but inaccurate) prognosis depressed him, and the possibility of giving in to the pressure and taking the life-ending drugs did tempt him. However, he knew that what he really needed was counseling, not pills with which to kill himself.

No matter how many years a person may or may not have left, no one should be told by a medical service provider that their life is no longer valuable and worth living, as the recommendation of assisted death implies.

Coercion for organs

Researchers in Switzerland and Scotland argue that allowing assisted death facilitates more organ donations, since the organs of those denied assisted dying will deteriorate as the patients wait to die naturally, thereby reducing any transplantation success after the patient’s death.

Canada has already become one of the leading countries in organ donation after the legalization of MAiD. Ontario, specifically, is the first jurisdiction in the world to reach out to every person approved for assisted death to inquire about their desire to donate organs. In 2019, assisted death patients comprised 18 organ donations and 95 tissue donations, showing a 109 percent increase from 2017. In a society already willing to coerce patients in order to save money and use their resources on those who are “more worthy of living,” there will most assuredly be a significant increase in organ donations once patients are allowed to be put to death for mental illness.

Slippery Slope

The Canadian government states that they are “committed to supporting the autonomy of eligible persons to seek MAiD while protecting vulnerable individuals and the equality rights of all Canadians,” but by deciding that some in their society are “less than” and have a “right” to end their lives, Canada is neither protecting the vulnerable nor upholding equality among its citizens. The reality is that Canada, a highly developed society, is regressing into one that is less developed and civilized and that is acting without a moral compass by trampling on those who are perceived as “weaker.”

Where does this culture of dehumanization end? If our “civilized” society continues to accept such a barbaric practice, this law will only expand to include even more vulnerable persons, such as those with physical or developmental disabilities. Many disability rights organizations have spoken out time after time against euthanasia, fearing that physicians might readily conclude that because those with disabilities are dependent on others and present atypical physical and mental challenges, much like persons with terminal illnesses, disability-related services are “artificially prolonging life” as well—perhaps unnecessarily—simply because the extraordinary means of keeping both sets of such persons alive are so similar.

There has also been discussion of assisted death for “mature minors.” Canada’s legislation is quickly descending to that of Germany’s, where “the right to a self-determined death is not limited to situations defined by external causes like serious or incurable illnesses [but] is guaranteed in all stages of a person’s existence.” Even more alarming than Germany’s law is the proposal by a Quebec physician to allow euthanasia for infants, opening the door to ending the lives of those who can’t consent.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “the peoples of the United Nations have … reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life.” However, viewing any human being as of “less worth” doesn’t promote social progress in terms of equality and the worth of every human person, and coercing people to end their lives is the opposite of promoting “better standards of life.”

Further Reading

is External Affairs Liaison and contributing writer for the children’s rights organization Them Before Us, and a Premier Fellow for the public policy organization Society of St. Sebastian. She has a master’s degree in Mental Health and Wellness and is working toward graduate certificates in Trauma-Informed Practice and Catholic Bioethics. She seeks to spread truth regarding the consequences of dismantling the foundational familial structure.

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