A woman holds a sign during a rally against physician-assisted suicide on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in this file photo. CNS photo/Art Babych

Editorial: Runaway MAiD train

By 
  • February 25, 2021

As Canada continues to hurtle toward being a world leader in helping people commit suicide, let us spare a moment to consider an alternative: Giving people a reason to live.

The government has apparently made its position clear on the “right” for Canadians to end their own lives on their own terms. Yes, the government threw in a few “safeguards” in the Bill C-7 rules lest anyone consider it a willing partner to suicide. Still, a Quebec court thought the rules were unfair for people who weren’t terminally ill, so the government dutifully and quickly rewrote the rules around “foreseeable death.” Then the Canadian Senate thought it would be a good idea to widen the net of potential clients for assisted death with more amendments to the bill. Dissenting voices in Parliamentary chambers are hard to hear above the noise from those eager to keep this runaway train on the suicide track.

Turning back the clock on euthanasia legislation is not going to happen anytime soon, that much is clear; though it must not deter the efforts to do so, nor the efforts to push even harder to make life liveable for those who are suffering, physically and mentally. Sadly, while we make it easier for people to exit this life, the political effort for more and better access to the social, economic and palliative resources that can help is lacking, and even moreso among marginalized communities.

A Toronto Star column last month by Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician who works extensively with the homeless, tells the story of a man who suffered with, among other things, multiple sclerosis. Doctors could manage the physical pain, but complications eventually led the man to mental problems, then alcoholism, losing his home and family, and ultimately a life alone. He wanted out, through medically-assisted death (MAiD).  Where were the supports that could have helped him step away from such a fatal step?

“I work in a world where it is possible to successfully arrange for MAiD in two weeks in an organized and efficient fashion,” Dosani states. “Yet, it takes years to get the people I care for into housing, months to get them income supports, and weeks to get mental health and harm reduction treatment essential to a good quality of life.”

Dosani calls it a “morally distressing” situation, which may be putting it mildly. The longer we reach for the easy solution — giving people a way out instead of providing the environment that values every God-given life — we are failing as a society.

There have been numerous studies and reports over the years that offer strategies toward a better future of caring and compassion, yet they march toward reality at a glacial pace, if at all. In the meantime, valuable lives are lost under notion that killing oneself is a human right. So is living.

“Life must be welcomed, protected, respected and served from its beginning to its end,” Pope Francis has said.

We have made it easier to die in this country. When will we make it easier to live?

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