In Canada, assisted suicide is more popular among vulnerable people who cannot seek treatment.

In Canada, assisted suicide is more popular among vulnerable people who cannot seek treatment.
In Canada, assisted suicide is more popular among vulnerable people who cannot seek treatment.

Canada’s medical assistance in dying law came into force in June 2016. This law allows people with a disability or chronic illness to be killed by a doctor at their request. Many stories have been published about people with disabilities who “chose” medical assistance in dying, which is effectively euthanasia, because of their poverty or inability to obtain treatment. Welcome to the brave new world.

Charity worker speaks out

In 2023, more than 1.5 million Canadians with disabilities lived in poverty. Many of them turn to medical assistance in dying (MAID). Charities that help poor disabled people have noticed the problem. Meghan Nicholls, Executive Director of the Mississauga Food Bank said: “We’re at the point where clients in these programs are telling us they’re considering physician-assisted death or suicide because they can no longer live in poverty. A customer in our Food Bank 2 Home delivery program told one of our employees that he was considering suicide because he was tired of suffering in poverty. Another client asked us if we knew how to apply for MAID (medically assisted death) for the same reasons…When people start telling us that they are going to end their life because they can no longer living in poverty, it is clear that we have failed them”

Rose Finlay, 33, is an example. Last June, Ms Finlay, a paraplegic, applied for the MAID scheme because she was unable to find help with personal care. She had previously run her own business, but her condition worsened and she was unable to pay her support workers. She applied to the Ontario Disability Support Program, but was told it would take at least six to eight months for her application to be approved. Euthanasia would be approved within 90 days.

Finlay said: “That’s not what I want. But if I don’t get the support I need, the result is the same…I wish I had other options”

A woman named “Madeline,” who suffered from myalgic encephalomyelitis, turned to crowdfunding to pay for the help she needed after being denied government assistance five times. She risks euthanasia when she runs out of money.

She said: “I have found treatments, but I cannot afford them… For me, MAID is not a life or death choice. It’s about knowing what kind of death I want when I run out of money.”

Sathya Dhara Kovac, 44, died from euthanasia that she “chose” because the government refused to provide her with enough hours of care. Before she died, she said: “ In the end, it wasn’t a genetic disease that took me away, it was a system…I could have had more time if I had had more help.”

Her friend Shayla Brantnall said : “She’s accepted the changes in her body, but without enough support, how could we continue?… You’re constantly stressed, you’re constantly struggling, like, ‘How am I going to go to the bathroom?’ How will I eat? It’s not really a good quality of life either.”

Once again, the cause of his “request” was not his disability, but the lack of money for care.

Tracey Thompson suffered from long-term covid. She was unable to get assistance, which, even if granted, would barely cover her rent and leave her nothing for other expenses.

The choice of euthanasia, she said, was “exclusively a financial consideration”.

She also said: “ I am very happy to be alive. I still enjoy life. The chirping of birds, the little things that make a day are always pleasant for me, they are always pleasant. I always appreciate my friends”

But without income, she did not feel able to survive.

Medical assistance in dying due to lack of appropriate housing

Michael Fraser was eligible for euthanasia due to liver disease, incontinence and an inability to walk. He died because his apartment, located on the second floor, had become a prison and he could not afford to move.

The doctor who killed him, Dr. Navindra Persaud, struggled with the decision. Persaud said: “ Professional standards were met: It’s legal, but I feel guilty. There were a number of factors that led to Michael’s decision, and I think poverty was one of them….”

Sometimes poverty pushes people into MAID who could be helped in other ways. I think the fact that he had trouble paying his rent made his life more difficult.

Sophia, 51, suffered from multiple chemical hypersensitivity. She did everything in her power to gain access to safe housing, but was refused each time. She therefore died by euthanasia.

Rohini Peris, president of the Quebec Association for Environmental Health, said about this case: “This person begged for help for years, writing everywhere, calling everywhere, asking for healthy housing… It’s not that they didn’t want to live. She couldn’t live that way.”

Dr Riina Bray, who treats his illness, said: “It was an easy solution: We just had to help him find suitable accommodation, where there was no smoke coming out of the vents”

A money saving goal?

These are just a few examples of how people with disabilities are forced into euthanasia due to poverty and lack of services. There is, however, evidence that the law is working exactly as it was intended to.

Before medical assistance in dying was legalized, the Canadian Medical Association released a report on the savings the law would achieve. After all, dead people do not cost the government more in terms of health or support costs. An article covering the report stated: “New research suggests that medical assistance in dying could result in substantial savings across the Canadian health care system”

According to a report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, medical assistance in dying could reduce annual health care costs by $34.7 million to $136.8 million across the country.

Aaron Trachtenberg, one of the authors of the report, told CBC News: “In a resource-constrained health system, any time we launch a large-scale intervention, there needs to be a certain amount of planning and preparation, and cost has to be part of the discussion… That’s simply the reality of working in a system with limited resources »

How do supporters of medical assistance in dying respond to these cases?

Mainly by denying their existence. Responding to allegations that disabled people were choosing death due to poverty and lack of housing, Helen Long, chief executive of pro-euthanasia charity Dying with Dignity, said: “It’s simply not true and there is no evidence, to my knowledge, to support these claims. »

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