Columnist admits he ‘MAiD’ an error

  • April 23, 2024

Pundits generally, and perhaps columnists in particular, do not often admit to making mistakes. Or, at least, to errors in judgement publicly expressed. Earning, as they do, their daily bread by purveying  opinion, it doesn’t do, as they say in England, to be chopping and changing.

So, it is a special kind of pundit who can step away from previously professed opinions, take a clear-eyed view of the polis, the people, culture, and mood of the country, and admit to getting things wrong.

In a series of increasingly bemused tweets on social media platform X/Twitter, longtime National Post columnist Chris Selley has done just that, concluding on Apr. 12 that he had “never been more wrong about anything than when I said, ‘we can get euthanasia right.’”

Selley, who also writes for the Toronto Sun, does not approach the topic of euthanasia from a particular political or religious angle.

“I've never really identified myself as anywhere on the political spectrum. I don't have any religious input into this,” he told The Catholic Register.

Like most Canadians who do not hold to a Catholic understanding of euthanasia as morally unacceptable, Selley thinks that it is “reasonable” position to hold that the State can provide euthanasia under certain, narrow conditions.

“I think it is acceptable for euthanasia to be offered when death is reasonably foreseeable, as the result of a terminal illness, and the person is in pain. That was how the law was originally drafted and most people think that, under those conditions, it is reasonable for the State to provide euthanasia.”

Selley baulks at using the acronym MAID, “I think we just adopted Medical Assistance in Dying because it sounds better, but that's not what anyone else in the world calls it. They call it what it is: euthanasia.”

But Selley confesses to being taken aback at how things have played out in Canada.

“I didn’t anticipate a number of things, for starters how it would descend into this conversation about rights. The argument is that the Charter says we can’t discriminate, and if we allow euthanasia for people with physical illnesses, we have it for people with mental illnesses.”

He also thinks the insertion of a human rights argument to a discussion of a medical procedure is problematic.

“It doesn't make any sense. To me, euthanasia is a medical procedure. Obviously, it's a very special kind of medical procedure that does the opposite of what most medical procedures do, but it's not about ‘rights.’”

“I can't walk into a hospital and just say, I want a new hip. I want a prescription for Fentanyl. If it's a medical procedure, there should be standards that have to be met. And to me, the medical profession, above all, should be the most concerned saying, ‘Well, we shouldn't be killing people unless there's a very good reason.’”

There is much in the way things have unfolded that Selley admits he did not foresee.

“I did not anticipate otherwise reasonable people saying, ‘This homeless person wants medical assistance to die because they're miserable. Well, how can we deny it to them?’”

The other thing Selley admits to not anticipating, although he mocks himself for it, is how badly the “mess” of the medical system and a “frayed social safety net” could jeopardize the process.

“When you look at our healthcare systems, why would this be the one thing we got right?”

Over and over again, Selley referred to the current state of things as “a mess.”

In his March 27 National Post story about the 27-year-old autistic Alberta woman who is asking for MAID, Selley wrote, “There had better be further appeal. This is an unholy mess.”

Back in our conversation, Selley reflected that “the notion that a society would provide someone with help in killing themselves just because we can't help them with everything else, is a level of dystopia that I'm not willing to tolerate. I'm not willing to contemplate it as an official matter of policy.”

Selley concluded that the “unholy mess” displayed in the euthanasia debacle is perhaps “part of a real gathering narrative of Canada losing the plot.”

“I guess that's why I'm so disappointed both in the outcome and in myself because I'm a very cynical person and even I didn't see this coming. I think are Canadians are a very reasonable people in general, and I find that when things like this go wiggy in our politics, it doesn't reflect us at all.”

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