– by Wanda Gaetz –
I wonder how many Canadians are aware that Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) law is the most permissive euthanasia legislation in the world?
To give some context for this, in 2016, the Canadian Parliament legalized “Medical Assistance in Dying” (MAID), a relatively new term referring to both assisted suicide and euthanasia. MAID was introduced in response to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that overturned an absolute prohibition of these practices in Canada’s Criminal Code. To accommodate this court ruling, the Canadian Parliament enacted Bill C-14 in 2016, which created a legislative exemption for assisted suicide and euthanasia. They put in a number of safeguards, including the prerequisite that the person who is looking to take his or her own life with assistance, be terminally ill, able to provide consent at the time of death and be accompanied by two witnesses, during the life-ending procedure.
Within five years of its introduction, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal government removed several key safeguards embedded in the law, in its updated MAID legislation, BILL C-7.
Within three years of its introduction in 2016, the death rate by MAID had risen to 2% of all deaths. By 2020, the rate had increased to 2.5% of all deaths, and by 2021, it was 3.3%, with some provinces approaching 5%. Each year brings significant increases in people who are choosing an early death. In 2021, the province of Quebec reported that 4.7% of deaths in the province were due to MAID; in BC the number was 4.8%, with Vancouver Island unofficially known as the ‘assisted-death capital of the world’.
It is quite shocking that in the last six years, over 31,000 people in Canada have chosen to end their life through choosing Medical Assistance in Dying. Within six years of the introduction of MAID, Canada has surpassed all other countries for its number of assisted suicide deaths reported in 2021. The Netherlands and Belgium, which have allowed both euthanasia and assisted suicide since 2002, have experienced much more gradual increases over many more years. As well, Belgium and the Netherlands require that all treatment alternatives have been exhausted before euthanasia can be considered, which is not the case in Canada.
An obvious and better approach to helping people deal with medical and end-of-life challenges in Canada would be for governments to provide adequate funding to cut wait times, and to ensure access to health care and community supports, especially palliative care.
What’s really behind the push for MAID? Could it be money? The reality is that it’s cheaper to kill someone than to care for them. MAID costs less than state-supported health and community care. This creates a perverse incentive to push MAID. Unfortunately, governments and medical institutions tend to focus on the bottom line. According to a report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Jan. 23, 2017, “doctor-assisted suicide could reduce annual health-care spending across the country by between $34.7 million and $136.8 million. The savings exceedingly outweigh the estimated $1.5 to $14.8 million in direct costs associated with implementing medically-assisted dying.”
Canada’s MAID law currently allows suicide facilitation for persons with disabilities, and is on track to expand in March 2023, to include those living with mental illness. Shockingly, the first report of the federal special joint committee on MAID suggests it will not only ignore all the problems caused by MAID but also further entrench and expand MAID in Canada.
Contrast the easy access to MAID with the decreasing resources in health care and the high number of Canadians, who don’t have a family doctor. Palliative care, most specialty chronic care, disability and community support services are inadequately funded, and in chronically short supply.
Today, any adult with a serious illness, disease or disability can seek help in dying. Due to these expansions, in particular the allowance of those who are chronically ill, a recent report has indicated that disabled Canadians are now choosing assisted suicide to escape poverty with another report stating that doctors in Canada are being urged to actively promote euthanasia, as an option to sick patients. The report, entitled, “Bringing up MAID as a clinical care option,” declares that physicians and nurse practitioners “have a professional obligation to initiate a discussion about MAID” with patients considered eligible.
The expansion of MAID offers the illusion of choice, while, in reality, it pushes the most vulnerable and marginalized Canadians towards choosing an early death, instead of providing adequate care and treatments to allow a meaningful and fulfilled life.
In contrast with recent legislation in New Zealand and Australia, there is no legal prohibition restricting health professionals from suggesting MAID as an option to patients. There are now several media reports of patients being profoundly and negatively impacted by suggestions from their physicians, that they consider death. In fact, the Canadian Association of MAID Providers and Assessors, which has received significant funding from the federal government to provide training to heath care providers, even recommends that those who “might qualify should be offered MAID” as part of the informed consent process. This would thus imply that a person with a disability and “irreversible decline of capability” (including a person with mental illness, as of March 2023), who visits a physician to have a medical issue addressed that appears to create serious suffering, would have to be offered MAID as one of the options.
No other country in the world has normalized assisted suicide or euthanasia, in this way, as a potential first-line therapeutic option to address suffering. It is reprehensible that Canada does not have any actual safeguard or requirement that other treatments need to have been accessed or tried first. Canada thus has arguably the most wide-open, state-facilitated suicide process in the world, which can be subjectively driven by patients declaring intolerable suffering during periods of despair.
CTV ran a W5 story showing a man’s MAID experience, and another patient having watched it; the way they presented the story was very appealing, and it suggested that MAID would be a good option for her. This patient is in her midlife. She had a recent mild spinal cord injury, to which she hasn’t had time to adjust or receive any peer support or proper symptom control. She would prefer to die than be poor, and she is aware the government won’t provide what she needs to live with her new disability.
The legislation is written such that she can access MAID more quickly and easily than she could access proper medical care that would enable her to heal and adjust to the greatest extent possible. Also troubling, the government has not considered the well-documented phenomenon that messaging promoting suicide increases rates of suicide. Have we considered how MAID offered by the government might affect a person’s decision to choose death?
Despite these cases and numerous others in the media spotlight that should make us pause and consider the evidence, some are pushing for MAID expansion. The federal legislation is on track in March 2023 to expand to those living with mental illness. The first report of the federal special joint committee on MAID suggests it will not only ignore all the problems caused by MAID but also further entrench and expand MAID in Canada.
The Canadian government is presently discussing euthanasia for “mature minors.” Equally alarming is the discussion about infant euthanasia, with the recent push in the past several months by the Quebec College of Physicians to approve infant euthanasia. Under the current law, a person needs to be able to request or consent to euthanasia prior to being killed.
As well, a bill has been filed in the Canadian Senate that would permit patients to order themselves be killed, without final consent, if they become mentally incapacitated.
The blood of over four million babies in Canada, killed by abortion since its decriminalization in 1969, is on our hands. I shudder to think of how many people will die by MAID, if the parameters continue to expand.
As you can see, this really disturbs me and breaks my heart, when I realize how far our nation has fallen. What happens in a land that accepts and normalizes this madness is that life becomes cheap and devalued. How a culture treats its very young and old, disabled or marginalized, speaks volumes.
May the God, who loved us so much He sent His only Son to die for each of us, be able to get our attention to turn to Him to intercede, more than ever, for our nation, and to plead for mercy and grace. If not, our country will experience severe judgement for turning against His ways and His love for life.
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