What was initially promoted as an option for people to avoid suffering in death is increasingly being treated as an option for people to avoid suffering in life
. I’m talking about doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia (euphemistically called “medical assistance in dying” or MAiD).
In June 2016, MAiD became legal in Canada for adults
suffering intolerable physical or psychological pain from an incurable
illness, disease or disability, whose death is reasonably foreseeable
The EFC expressed strong opposition to all hastened death, but argued for the strongest possible safeguards and limits on the practice in order to protect vulnerable Canadians and to try to minimize harm.
Sadly, it did not take long for Parliament to remove some of the eligibility requirements to give more
Canadians access to doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia. In March 2021, the law was revised under Bill C-7, removing some of the critical safeguards and broadening access to those who are not dying from their condition and, effective March 2023, to those suffering solely from mental illnesses.
In April 2022, a special parliamentary committee on MAiD began its review of the current law. It is also deliberating whether mature minors should be eligible for assisted dying and whether people with competence-eroding conditions like dementia should be able to make advance requests for the procedure. An interim report on mental illness will be released this month. The full report is due this fall.
The EFC’s submission to the committee in May underscored many major areas of concern:
Assisted Suicide for Those Who Are Not Near Death
Bill C-7 opened up access to eligible patients who are not
near death, giving people with non-terminal chronic illnesses or disabilities and disabling conditions the “choice” to end their lives.
We are extremely concerned that the current MAiD law places Canadians with disabilities or chronic illnesses at risk of harm. Many must constantly struggle to obtain adequate and costly medical treatments and social supports. In addition, many face overwhelming barriers to housing, income security and other essential measures.
An unintended consequence of the MAiD expansion is that more people with disabilities or chronic illnesses might choose death, not because their conditions cannot be managed, but because they cannot access (or afford) the supports they need to live
with dignity. They, in effect, have to justify why they should receive support to live and not opt for death!
Assisted Suicide for Those Suffering Solely With Mental Illness
Effective March 2023, eligible adults who are suffering solely from a mental illness will be eligible for assisted death.
The requirement that a condition must be deemed irremediable is a crucial safeguard against prematurely ending a person’s life. And the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention and others have concluded, based on extensive medical evidence, that it is not
possible to predict whether any person’s mental illness is incurable. The risk of wrongful death is too great to allow MAiD for those suffering solely with mental illness.
As well, like those living with physical disabilities, individuals living with psychiatric conditions already struggle with marginalization and obtaining the services and support needed to live well and to thrive. It would be unconscionable to offer assisted suicide, rather than support, to these individuals.
Advance Requests for Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
Advocates of advance requests want the option to be able to describe a set of future conditions that, once met, would prompt the doctor to deliberately end their lives. Advance requests are often driven by unrealized future fears – fear of suffering, fear of loss of control, fear of being a burden, or fear of loss of dignity.
But what if we can address those fears and offer hope instead of a needle? The EFC is urging the government to ensure more widespread access to good palliative care services and resources. High-quality, holistic palliative care can provide effective pain and symptom management. It also provides people with assured support to live their final days cared for physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Assisted Suicide for Mature Minors
Currently, only people over the age of 18 can request doctor-assisted suicide or euthanasia. However, some argue that eligibility should be based on maturity and competence, not age.
While mature minors currently have legal decision-making power over some medical treatments, having the power to choose doctor-assisted suicide is fundamentally different. MAiD cannot be undone or mitigated. It ends life.
Every life has God-given honour and dignity. As Christians, we are called to care for those who are vulnerable – to offer supports to live, not expand access to hastened death. The EFC will continue to defend the equal worth of all humans, regardless of age, ability or health. Please consider making a generous donation today to help us bring these concerns to both public policymakers and the public at large!