Canada’s ‘medical assistance in dying’ grows and expands

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In 2015, Supreme Court of Canada overturned a 22-year ban on assisted suicide. The following year, its parliament passed legislation allowing “HOUSEMAIDor medical assistance in dying for those who suffer from a terminal illness and whose death was “reasonably foreseeable”. Five years later, the “reasonably foreseeable” wording was dropped, as was the terminal illness requirement.

Today, suicide with “medical assistance” simply requires that a doctor and a witness agree that the physical or mental suffering is such that it “cannot be relieved under conditions which you (the patient) consider acceptable”. Next year it will expand to include anyone with a mental illness, such as PTSD or depression. There is also talk of expanding the practice to include minors.

Soon, under Canadian law, a person charged with a crime “must possess the capacity to understand that his or her behavior was wrong in order to be found guilty”. However, someone will not need the mental capacity to understand the implications of “medical assistance in dying” to choose death.

None of this, we are told, should alarm us. Proponents of assisted dying always cite “safeguards,” such as doctor’s approval, uncoerced patient consent, or humane conditions. Some stories are exalted, like Betty Sanguin, an ALS patient who chose to end her life in a Manitoba church, surrounded by friends, family and clergy, who obtained permission from a MAID team to kill her in their sanctuary. Other stories are ignored.

Even in so-called “safe” cases, serious harm has been done. Life is sacred, a gift from God, and should never be thrown away. Intentionally ending life in a church is not a blessing. It is a distortion and a blasphemy.

For the most part, the realities of physician-assisted dying look nothing like the blissful best-case scenarios depicted in the sales pitch. In particular, there are culture-wide implications for human dignity and worth, which proponents of euthanasia seem unable or unwilling to foresee. Many begin to believe that their life is unworthy of living, their will stolen, their dignity degraded.

Last month in The spectator, Yuan Yi Zhu described some of these stories in a provocative article titled, “Why does Canada euthanize the poor?” In it, he describes the real human cost of euthanasia laws and how the practice blurs the boundaries of consent:

Now, as long as someone suffers from an illness or disability that “cannot be relieved under conditions acceptable to you‘, they can take advantage of what is now euphemistically called ‘medical assistance in dying’ (MAID for short) free of charge. … Soon, Canadians across the country discovered that although they would prefer to live otherwise, they were too poor to improve their conditions to an acceptable degree.

His examples included an Ontarianwho opted for assisted death because her disability benefits were not enough to cover smoke- and chemical-free housing, and she was forced to live with crippling allergies. In Vancouveranother woman requested “medical assistance in dying” when her debt prevented her from paying for medication that would have relieved chronic pain. The family of another 35-year-old disabled man discovered how appalling his living conditions were, only after deciding to end his life. Tragically, by the time the government investigated the care facility and revoked its license, it was too late. As Zhu put it on, “One wonders what autonomy a handicapped man had, lying in his own filth to weigh death over life.”

Individuals are supposed to be “free” to choose, but it is unclear how often this decision is influenced by financial concerns. “Health care, especially for people with chronic conditions, is expensive,” Zhu wrote, “but assisted suicide only costs the taxpayer $2,327 per ‘case’.” He concluded :

Canadian law, in all its majesty, has allowed rich and poor alike to commit suicide if they are too poor to continue to live in dignity. In fact, the ever-generous Canadian state will even pay for their deaths. What he won’t do is spend money to allow them to live instead of killing each other.

For at least some of Canada’s poorest citizens, coercion into death is not a distant fear, promoted by frightened conspiracy groups. Pressure is a daily reality.

Euthanasia in all its forms is a misguided response to a real human problem. Some face a lifetime of unimaginable pain. The only acceptable and loving response is to provide the best compassion, care, and pain management possible.

Every time a country, like Canada, embraces “death with dignity” or “medical assistance in dying” or some other euphemistically disguised lack of compassion, a price is imposed on people. And, whenever a price tag is placed on something that is inherently priceless, it is depreciated. In the case of Canada, the money goes to the so-called “self-reliance” of vulnerable people, instead of fighting for their lives.

Release date: May 10, 2022

Photo credit: Daan Stevens Yguumiqjiru/Unsplash

The opinions expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.


Breakpoint is a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint comments offer incisive content that people can’t find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio show, BreakPoint offers a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends. Today, you can get it in written form and in a variety of audio formats: on the web, on the radio, or in your favorite podcast app on the go.

John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and radio host of Breakpoint, a daily national radio program offering thought-provoking commentary on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John is a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

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