By Jonathon Van Maren
On October 5, the Trudeau government reintroduced Bill C-7, a proposed amendment to Canada’s current euthanasia regime. Every single pro-life leader who spoke out against the initial legalization of assisted suicide predicted that these changes would come, and every single one of us knew that the suicide activists who claimed we were “fear-mongering” were lying. They knew they were lying, too. But they also knew that once killing patients was reclassified as healthcare and suicide was declared a right in certain circumstances, all they would have to do was work to expand who has access to this “right.”
Before long, preventing mentally ill people from killing themselves will no longer be called “suicide prevention.” It will be characterized as a cruel attempt to bar suffering people from exercising their right to non-existence. We’re already seeing this unfold in the Netherlands, where euthanasia for children with terminal illnesses between the ages of 1 and 12 and suicide on demand for those who feel they have “completed life” will soon be available.
The proposed changes to Canada’s assisted suicide laws are breathtaking. Medical Aid in Dying—or MAiD, just to ensure nobody ever has to use the word “suicide”—will soon be on offer not only to those who are dying of terminal illnesses and have a “reasonably foreseeable” death, but also to those who are chronically ill and those who are disabled. According to the National Post, which has been a rare voice of sanity on this issue (and called these proposed changes “madness”): “This bill effectively allows medical death on demand for almost anyone who wants it.” Essentially, nearly every safeguard contained in the previous assisted suicide bill—and they were flimsy at best—will be removed.
The National Post laid out precisely what the new Trudeau suicide bill will mean:
Under the proposed legislation, and based on known cases, people with a serious illness could receive a lethal injection on the same day that they receive their diagnosis. And while Bill C-7 says patients need to be given information about services that could help alleviate their suffering, there is no responsibility to provide access to those services. How can we say that we are giving people freedom to choose when they are not given access to real and timely medical assistance in living?
Less than 30 per cent of Canadians have access to palliative care, and access to disability supports is limited in many areas. We know that depression and anxiety are common in those facing challenging health situations, but psychiatric care can take months or even years to access.
The July 2020 Health Canada report on MAID detailed the percentages of those accessing palliative care and disability supports, but contained no description of the adequacy of these services, which is necessary to make any meaningful conclusions. Meanwhile, many palliative care and disability experts have been raising their anguished voices over the lack of access to care, which the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified.
The fact is that our medical system is not able to adequately serve our patients. Expanding MAID to all chronically ill and disabled people is not the solution to the scandalous lack of adequate funding, skilled health-care professionals and public services in this country. This bill will throw real options for care out the window for those who need them.
Already, there have been several reported cases of people being pressured to seek MAID. For example, in 2017, Roger Foley, who suffers from a neurological condition, made a recording of his health-care team suggesting that he should seek MAID due to the expense of living in hospital, given that his care needs could not be met at home. There was also the case of Candice Elson, a 25-year-old with a developmental disability and chronic medical problems whose doctor suggested to her mom that she should receive MAID.
Instead of using our resources to increase health-care personnel, improve our quality of care, enhance our palliative care options and ensure quicker access to psychiatric care, our federal government seems more interested in fast-tracking death on demand and dismantling the MAID safeguards that were put in place to protect the vulnerable.
Under this bill, you no longer have to be dying to receive medical assistance in dying, therefore the acronym no longer fits. The procedure more accurately becomes medically administered death (MAD). The message that C-7 sends to those with chronic illnesses or disabilities is that their lives are not worth living and that they would be better off dead.
Again, this was not only predictable, it was predicted. Canada’s courts are stacked with justices that support assisted suicide as a right—including every single Harper-appointed Supreme Court justice—and the suicide activists will spend the next decade or so bringing cases of suffering men and women who wish to die to court to expand so-called Medical Aid in Dying until suicide is available on demand. Then, they will move to secure this “right” for “mature minors,” a phrase they only use because calling them “children” sounds too cold-blooded. In a culture plagued by loneliness, elder abuse, and a massive deficiency of palliative care, this means the suicide rates will continue to skyrocket.
But instead of recognizing that as a miserable collective social failure, our leaders and judges can rest easy. After all, we don’t have a suicide epidemic on our hands. We simply have miserable, suffering Canadians choosing to exercise their right to have a doctor kill them because they cannot bear to live longer. That’s much easier than alleviating their suffering or doing the hard work of loving one another.
My colleague Blaise Alleyne and I wrote a short book, A Guide to Discussing Suicide, to help you discuss this issue with your peers. You can purchase it for $10 if you’re interested: