NP View: The Truly Awful Cost of Canada’s Permissive Doctor-Assisted Death Program

Author of the article:National Post View
Publishing date:May 08, 2022

It has been quite remarkable to watch: In less than a decade, Canadas medical assistance in dying (MAID) program has expanded from a system limited solely to those with terminal illnesses, to one that is now used by people who lack adequate housing. And it will soon be available to those with mental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Parliament should put the brakes on this runaway sled, and fix the current system.

After Quebec became the first Canadian jurisdiction to allow assisted suicide in 2014, we warned that, A great deal of research and reporting on those jurisdictions that permit euthanasia and/or assisted suicide suggest that the words slippery slope are more than mere alarmism, as proponents of euthanasia tend to insist. In every state or country in which the practice has been normalized, it has also, to some degree, become banalized, with eligibility criteria increasingly relaxed. Common patterns in all jurisdictions in Europe that allow euthanasia or assisted suicide show increasing numbers over time, and a shift from a focus on terminal cancer to other diseases, including psychiatric conditions.

We sincerely wish wed been wrong. Were not against the idea of assisted death in some strict cases, but this country has evolved into one where the lives of those in pain are treated cavalierly, as if they dont matter. Canada has not only adopted a nationwide MAID program, it has extended it to those who are not at imminent risk of dying and will soon see many more vulnerable Canadians become eligible. Yet even before its officially expanded to encompass those suffering from psychological disorders, the system has permitted questionable decisions about who qualifies for an assisted death, leading to abhorrent outcomes.

Last month, CTV ran a heartrending story about Sophia, a 51-year-old Toronto woman who suffered from a disorder known as multiple chemical sensitivities, which was aggravated by her neighbours cigarette smoke that would waft into her apartment and the chemical cleaners that were used in the hallways. Sophia spent two years petitioning her landlord, the Salvation Army, and all levels of government to make accommodations for her, or find a more suitable place for her to live. After repeatedly failing, she requested MAID and was granted a state-sanctioned assisted death.

CTV also reported the story of a 31-year-old Toronto woman identified as Denise, who also suffers from chemical sensitivities and uses a wheelchair. Like Sophia, Denise has been applying for government assistance to find more suitable accommodations, but says that it was easier to apply for MAID. Ive applied for MAID essentially because of abject poverty, she said. And so far, shes received all the necessary approvals, without anyone involved asking her about her efforts to find housing that is more accessible and free from the chemicals that aggravate her condition.

Whatever gloss about a dignified death advocates want to use to justify MAID, these are people suffering most of all from poverty. Euthanizing the poor cant be what liberals who support physician assisted death had in mind. How much more common will cases like this be when MAID is extended to those with mental illness, who are disproportionately poor?

Its clear that the regime has gone far beyond offering assisted deaths to competent adults suffering from grievous and irremediable conditions, which is what the Supreme Court said Canadians have a charter right to in 2015. It has also gone beyond the 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling, which said that it was unconstitutional to limit MAID to those whose deaths were reasonably foreseeable. That is what the Liberals used to justify their much-less-restrictive law, Bill C-7, which was enacted without appealing to the Supreme Court.

There are also questions about whether the existing system is putting to death those who are not competent enough to make such life-altering indeed, life-ending decisions. Police in Abbotsford, B.C., are currently investigating the case of Donna Duncan, who was euthanized despite the objections of her family doctor and two daughters, who say she was not of sound mind after suffering a head injury in 2020. Such concerns about mental competence will only increase once it becomes legal for people with mental health challenges to apply for MAID.

Unlike with the initial MAID law, which was necessitated by a Supreme Court ruling, expanding eligibility to those with mental illness was never ordered by the courts. It was a political decision that resulted from a Senate amendment to Bill C-7 that was accepted by the House of Commons. The government knew enough to delay its implementation for two years and strike an expert panel to make recommendations on how it would work in practice. Yet after only a year, it has become clear that even before the mental health provisions come into effect, Bill C-7 is causing a great deal of harm. Parliament should revisit the legislation and tighten up the rules surrounding MAID eligibility, including ensuring that people with mental illnesses receive the treatment they deserve, rather than an expedited departure from this earth.

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