A protester from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, top, is pictured in a file photo outside the British Columbia Supreme Court. CNS photo/Andy Clark, Reuters

A global shock MAiD in Canada

By  Anna Farrow
  • November 4, 2022

Is “Canada’s New Euthanasia Laws Carry Upsetting Nazi-Era Echoes” a headline in a Catholic newspaper, a press release from the CCCB, or a policy paper from a right-wing think tank? None of the above. Rather, it’s the title of a Forbes article published last August.

The past year has seen Canada’s euthanasia policies become a focus of critical attention by the international press.  It is not just the usual suspects questioning the direction Canada has taken on “end-of-life care.” Rather, it is the mainstream news outlets and talking heads, including many considered liberal or left-leaning in their editorial bias, asking the hard questions.

In September, The New York Times asked, “Is choosing death too easy in Canada?” During the papal visit to Canada in August, The Washington Post ran an editorial that queried, “Will future Canadians owe the disabled an apology for euthanasia?” And back in April, The Spectator baldly posed the question, “Why is Canada euthanizing the poor?” 

That last headline grabbed the attention of my brother in Connecticut. He sent me the link in an email with the subject heading, “What is going on in Canada?”

What is going on in Canada? 

The international coverage is careful to explain the new amendments to the Criminal Code that allow for medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to persons with disabilities whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, as well as the legislative provision of MAiD for the mentally ill that is due to come into effect in March 2023. 

Several of the articles mention the February 2021 letter, written by top United Nations disability rights officials to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that warned Canada was in danger of being in breach of its commitment to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Many of the journalists point to the push by experts towards a further liberalisation of the law, including allowing “mature minors” to access euthanasia.

 But what has really caught the attention of the world are the stories.  Stories of the men and women who because of poverty, disability or mental illness, or a combination of all three, have found themselves crashing through the societal safety nets and offered nothing on landing except a permanent, deadly solution to their problems.

The Associated Press reported on the story of 61-year-old Alan Nichols who, in 2019, requested and received euthanasia one month after being admitted to a British Columbia hospital because he was suffering from malnutrition, dehydration and suicidal thoughts. The New York Post published an image of the form Mr. Nichols signed requesting MAiD. The only entry under, “medical diagnosis relevant to the request,” was “hearing loss.” 

Back in the spring when Yuan Yi Zhu wrote his article for The Spectator, he was able to cite case after case where lack of resources was the complicating factor that led to the request for MAiD. One woman asked for euthanasia when she couldn’t afford treatment for her chronic pain. Another woman from Ontario requested and received MAiD because her housing benefits prevented her from moving to an apartment that could accommodate her crippling allergies. 

Just this past month, Ottawa City News reported on Amir Faroud, a man living in St. Catharine’s, Ont., who suffers from chronic back pain. He has requested MAiD, not because of the pain of daily living, but because he fears being homeless.The rooming house where he lives is up for sale, and Faroud cannot find anywhere else he can afford. 

“I don’t want to die but I don’t want to be homeless more than I don’t want to die,” he said.

A nearly universal feature of the reporting being done outside of Canada is that there is no pussy-footing around with the MAiD language that is favoured in this country.  It is always called what it is: euthanasia. There seems to be a reluctance to call it end-of-life care when the people being written about are clearly not at the end of their life but at the end of their rope.

Is there some hope that the international attention might cause our government, legislators and medical bureaucracy to consider putting the car into reverse?  

A commonly cited catalyst to recovery for former alcoholics is when they view video footage of their drunken behaviour. They watch the images of themselves enraged, or messily embracing someone who is not their spouse, or passed out and oblivious, and experience a moment of disgust and clarity: “That is not me, that is not who I am.” 

 When Canada looks in the mirror held up by the world will it be able to say, “That is not Canada”? 

Can Canada sober up?

(Farrow is a writer in Montreal.)

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