The terms permissive or progressive don’t do justice to the expansion of assisted suicide in Canada that’s happened practically overnight. Outrageous and unacceptable are a bitter fit.
In recent months, Canadians have been shocked by news stories about people who have considered, been offered, or been approved for what we call “medical assistance in dying” (MAiD) for reasons that take us way beyond where we thought we were headed.
When MAiD was first introduced five years ago, a person had to be facing imminent death. Last year, the federal Liberal government removed that qualifier.
Now, one must “have a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability” according to the government. But a lot of critics argue these terms are too open to interpretation. Also, starting next March, people suffering with mental illness will be eligible for MAiD.
There have already been stories of disabled veterans calling Veterans Affairs Canada to ask for basic services only to have MAiD presented to them as an option to consider, completely unprovoked.
Then there are the reports of people facing crushing poverty who are considering MAiD. They may technically be eligible because of a disability or illness they have, but are most compelled to go down this path because of quality-of-life issues related to poverty.
The defenders of the current regime say these are extreme examples and that there are rigorous safeguards in place to prevent things from getting out of control. They point to how candidates need two separate physician assessments and how the assisted suicide procedure can’t go ahead until 90 days after the first approval, giving people time to reconsider.
But the truth is that Canada is now treating MAiD like any other government service—where they have created explainer docs and telephone hotlines to assist people in accessing it.
Provincial health services now have unique billing codes for doctors to invoice for MAiD assessments. While it makes sense that physicians get paid for their time, this is also a bureaucratic normalization of MAiD within our health system.
Doctors in Canada who initially voiced support for legalizing MAiD for those suffering at the end of their lives are now withdrawing their support. For example, Dr. Sonu Gaind—who recorded a podcast episode with me on this topic earlier this year—is the physician chair of the MAiD assessment team at Toronto’s Humber River Hospital and he has gone from being an early supporter of MAiD to being a vocal critic of where it’s headed.
A lot of people seem to have undergone this journey, this columnist included.
“It’s a no-brainer that an adult of sound mind, living in a free society, should be able to end their own life on their own terms if confronted with relentless pain,” I wrote in a column seven years ago.
What I had in mind, what most people likely had in mind, was someone suffering from debilitating pain who was already near the end of their life but sought a reprieve from the agony. Think of someone with late-stage cancer or at the end of ALS, when no doctor would say there’s a chance of turning things around. We’re way beyond that now.
The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, writing about Canada’s MAiD system from afar, observes: “In these issues you can see the dark ways euthanasia interacts with other late-modern problems—the isolation imposed by family break down, the spread of chronic illness and depression, the pressure on aging, low-birthrate societies to cut their health care costs.”
How long until we hear official voices tell us that assisted suicide can be the solution to so many of society’s woes?
Persons with disabilities are now asking what all of this means for them. They are right to make their voices heard.
Then there are those worried that the euphemism “mature minors” is going to be rolled out to justify the state-sanctioned killing of children. They should also keep speaking out.
While it seems crazy to think the rules will get even broader, it also feels like anything is possible based on what’s already happened.
To say we’re going down a slippery slope is an understatement. We’re falling at breakneck speed and it’s time to put on the brakes.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.