By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
On October 14, the Toronto Star published an article by columnist Andrew Phillips titled “Canada is going too far with medical assistance in dying. The danger of abuse is becoming ever more apparent.”
On November 25, the Toronto Star published an editorial titled “We need to put the brakes on expanding access to MAiD” [https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2022/11/25/medically-assisted-deaths.html?rf ]. Considering the editorial position of the Toronto Star on euthanasia, this editorial shows how the perspective of euthanasia in Canada is changing.
The editorial begins by explaining why Canada legalized euthanasia and then it mentions the expansion of euthanasia by Bill C-7 in March 2021. The editorial states:
In very short order, however, Canada has become the world leader in MAiD. And we seem to have stepped onto a slippery slope.
Alarmingly, appallingly, stories have arisen that MAiD has been turned to not in terminal cases, but for what might be called deaths of despair.
The Star recently told the story of a 55-year-old St. Catharines man who sought help to end his life, not because he wanted to die but because he couldn’t work due to a debilitating back problem and couldn’t find affordable housing.
The Star also recently shone a spotlight on the case of Michael Fraser, who chose to end his life at 55 because of what was described as a “constellation of factors — intractable disease, childhood sexual trauma, mental health challenges.”
He was sick and poor and lonely. He hadn’t been outside for five weeks because he could not manage stairs. But he was not terminally ill.
He requested and was approved for MAiD. On July 2, his doctor came to his Toronto apartment and, with Fraser’s wife and friends at his side, administered a lethal injection.
Fraser’s doctor later acknowledged being conflicted about the procedure, said poverty was pushing people to MAiD and the fact Fraser — who was on disability support — “had trouble paying his rent made it harder for him to be in this world.”
Those words should stop us cold.
Especially since criteria for MAiD are to be expanded starting in March to people with mental illnesses.
The editorial ends by urging the Canadian government to re-evaluate the expansion of euthanasia:
Star columnists Andrew Phillips and Althia Raj have argued powerfully that it’s wholly unacceptable for those living in difficult circumstances, usually poverty-related, to not see or be provided with a way out.
If the great questions of any human existence are how to live, how to love and how to die, Canada needs to stop and renew its discussion of the latter.
Sometimes, what governments are asked to do is literally to make life or death decisions. This is such an occasion.
We need to put the brakes on expanding access to MAiD and, while the matter is reviewed, improve social supports for those suffering not from terminal illness, but from poverty and despair.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.