Some Canadian Health Care Patients Say They’re Being Encouraged To Just Die Already
In 2015 Canada’s Supreme Court struck down bans on medically assisted suicide as a violation of citizens’ liberty, writing that “An individual’s response to a grievous and irremediable medical condition is a matter critical to their dignity and autonomy. The prohibition denies people in this situation the right to make decisions concerning their bodily integrity and medical care and thus trenches on their liberty. And by leaving them to endure intolerable suffering, it impinges on their security of the person.”
Those quotes, in a nutshell, explain why the ability to end one’s life is an important freedom. Our bodies belong to us, not the government. We should have the power to decide whether we wish to continue living, particularly if we are in constant pain or suffering debilitating or fatal illnesses. In the Supreme Court’s ruling, the judges note that a ban on physician-assisted suicide “is rationally connected to the goal of protecting the vulnerable from taking their life in times of weakness” but that such protections don’t justify a full blanket prohibition on the practice. And so, the court ordered Canada to draft new legislation permitting euthanasia and assisted suicide. The Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) law was implemented in 2016.
Unfortunately, the philosophical argument for the right to die can also end up colliding with troubling decisions in a country where the government funds and controls access to healthcare. That is reportedly happening in Canada, where some citizens say health officials are actively encouraging people with disabilities and other chronic medical issues to consider suicide.
According to the Associated Press, hospitals are raising the possibility of assisted suicide with patients who hadn’t asked about it. These conversations are not motivated by quality of life but health care costs.
The A.P. notes that Belgium and the Australian state of Victoria, which allow physician-assisted suicide, tell medical professionals not to bring up euthanasia so that it’s not seen as medical advice. In other words, make sure it’s the patient’s idea.
This is not the case in Canada, where health care workers are trained to inform patients that they can choose euthanasia if they have a qualifying condition. This has led to some patients, particularly those with disabilities but not necessarily fatal illnesses, having some unpleasant conversations. One provided a recording to the Associated Press:
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