By Alex Schadenberg
An important article by Drs. Ramona Coelho, Leonie Herx, Timothy Lau, & John F. Scott was published in the National Post on October 8.
The article begins by explaining how Bill C-7 “effectively allows medical death on demand for almost anyone who wants it.”
On [October 5], the federal government reintroduced Bill C-7. Under the proposed legislation, medical assistance in dying (MAID) would no longer be offered only to people who are dying, but would include those who are chronically ill and disabled, as well. This bill effectively allows medical death on demand for almost anyone who wants it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us together as a nation to protect our most vulnerable. Canadians supported putting safeguards in place for the sake of the common good. Against this backdrop, it is shocking that our federal government is proposing to remove almost all the safeguards that were previously put in place to protect the vulnerable under MAID.
The authors continue by commenting on the deplorable state of palliative care in Canada.
Less than 30 per cent of Canadians have access to palliative care, and access to disability supports is limited in many areas. We know that depression and anxiety are common in those facing challenging health situations, but psychiatric care can take months or even years to access.
The July 2020 Health Canada report on MAID detailed the percentages of those accessing palliative care and disability supports, but contained no description of the adequacy of these services, which is necessary to make any meaningful conclusions. Meanwhile, many palliative care and disability experts have been raising their anguished voices over the lack of access to care, which the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified.
The fact is that our medical system is not able to adequately serve our patients. Expanding MAID to all chronically ill and disabled people is not the solution to the scandalous lack of adequate funding, skilled health-care professionals and public services in this country. This bill will throw real options for care out the window for those who need them.
They comment on several stories of how MAiD has resulted in pressure exerted on people with disabilities:
Already, there have been several reported cases of people being pressured to seek MAID. For example, in 2017, Roger Foley, who suffers from a neurological condition, made a recording of his health-care team suggesting that he should seek MAID due to the expense of living in hospital, given that his care needs could not be met at home. There was also the case of Candice Lewis, a 25-year-old with a developmental disability and chronic medical problems whose doctor suggested to her mom that she should receive MAID.
Instead of using our resources to increase health-care personnel, improve our quality of care, enhance our palliative care options and ensure quicker access to psychiatric care, our federal government seems more interested in fast-tracking death on demand and dismantling the MAID safeguards that were put in place to protect the vulnerable.
They end the article by commenting on the message is sending to the very vulnerable.
Under this bill, you no longer have to be dying to receive medical assistance in dying, therefore the acronym no longer fits. The procedure more accurately becomes medically administered death (MAD).
The message that C-7 sends to those with chronic illnesses or disabilities is that their lives are not worth living and that they would be better off dead. As physicians, we fear that this system would quickly change from one that gives people a choice to die, to one that coerces people to die. It’s pure MADness!
Thank you, Drs. Ramona Coelho, Leonie Herx, Timothy Lau & John F. Scott.
Dr. Ramona Coelho is a London, ON.-based family physician who cares for disabled and marginalized people. Dr. Leonie Herx is an associate professor and chair of the division of palliative medicine at Queen’s University. Dr. Timothy Lau is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Ottawa. Dr. John F. Scott is an associate professor in the division of palliative care at the University of Ottawa.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.