Canada keeps a tight grip on its world record for euthanasia deaths
Canadians are famed for their unfailing, even relentless, politeness. This seems inconsistent with another reason for their fame, or infamy: – Canada is the world leader in euthanasia deaths. Since “medical assistance in dying” (MAiD) became legal in 2016 until the end of 2021, 31,664 people died. The official figures have not been published for 2022, but they will show that another 11,000 or more have been added to that total.
The government believes that there is something wrong with these figures. They are too low – the safeguards need to be relaxed even further. Has someone been spiking the maple syrup?
Earlier this month a Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying reported to the Canadian Parliament. It made a number of recommendations about palliative care, protections for people with disabilities, euthanasia for people with mental disorders, euthanasia for children, and advance requests for euthanasia.
Euthanasia has been normalised in Canada, so the report has simply proposed the liberalisation of an already liberal regime. Americans and Australians, whose countries already permit the “right to die” in some jurisdictions, ought to pay close attention to how the euthanasia juggernaut continues to knock over boundaries.
People with mental illness. In 2021 the criminal code was amended to permit people whose death is not “reasonably foreseeable” to request euthanasia. However, people with a mental disorder would have wait until March 2023. The report recommends that this date be extended until March 2024 to bed down the protocols. One problem, as the committee acknowledges, is “the need to ensure that individuals who are vulnerable do not seek MAID as an alternative to inadequate social and healthcare supports”.
Prisoners: prisoners should have the same access to healthcare, including MAiD, as those living in the community. Several prisoners have already died under MAiD in Canadian prisons. However, the report recommends compassionate release into the community so that prisoners whose death is reasonably foreseeable can die outside the Big House.
“Mature minors”. The recommendations for euthanasia for children are highly controversial. At the moment, the cut-off for eligibility is 18, but the MPs want to permit younger people to access MAiD if they are “mature minors”.
There is no defined age at which a child becomes a “mature minor”. In the Netherlands 12-year-olds can be given euthanasia. In Belgium there is no age limit as long as a child has the “requisite capacity”. Could a 9-year-old Canadian make a serene and fully informed request? The report suggested that the term be defined more carefully.
The report recommends that mature minors be allowed to access euthanasia, but only if their death is reasonably foreseeable. Should their parents be involved? Not necessarily. The report recommends that “where appropriate, the parents or guardians of a mature minor be consulted in the course of the assessment process for MAiD”. However, “the will of a minor who is found to have the requisite decision-making capacity ultimately take priority.”
So it is quite conceivable that the parents could find out that their child had asked for and been granted MAiD only after the child is dead. It would be even more tragic if she were only 9. “She was very mature for her age,” the doctors will tell the parents.
Furthermore, although the report recommends caution, it notes that some experts believe that it may not be constitutional to limit requests to children whose death is “reasonably foreseeable”.
Advance directives. The report endorses “advance requests following a diagnosis of a serious and incurable medical condition disease, or disorder leading to incapacity”. In other words, people will be able to request that they be given a lethal injection after they have lost full capacity because of dementia.
The discussion in the report appears to assume that the request should be written, but, tellingly, does not specify this. So it might be possible for unscrupulous relatives to remember verbal instructions made when a person was compos mentis.
Alex Schadenberg, of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, commented: “The recommendations being put forth by [the committee] would give Canada the most permissive euthanasia law in the world. Given the current state of Canada, where vulnerable people continue to be pressured to euthanasia on a frequent basis, it is inappropriate for the government to consider these radical expansions to the euthanasia law. There should instead be a greater focus on how governments in Canada can help people who may be feeling that their life is not worth living.”
Canada is a paradigm of the ruthless logic of voluntary euthanasia. As soon as the principle takes hold that people have a right to die, or rather, a right to be killed, within carefully defined boundaries, the work of demolition begins. That right expands from people with a terminally ill condition, to people who are tired of life, to people who are demented, to children, and to infants. The second last step in this logic is a right to universal suicide.
And the last step? Don’t be surprised to hear “right to die” activists arguing that no right exists without a corresponding duty.
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