It is no secret that Canada’s assisted suicide legislation, Medical Aid in Dying [MAiD], has seen rapid expansion since its implementation in 2016. In 2019, the Government of Canada determined that assisted suicide would be accessible to all those with “intolerable suffering” (i.e. those with physical disabilities). Then in the spring of 2021, Canada voted to expand eligibility to people with mental illnesses beginning in March of 2023.
And as of October 2022, assisted suicide advocate Dr. Louis Roy suggested that assisted suicide should be available to “infants up to age one who are born with ‘severe malformations’ and ‘grave and severe syndromes’ for which their ‘prospective of survival is null, so to speak.’”
Roy’s shocking recommendation prompted instant pushback from many disability rights advocacy groups. Krista Carr, the executive vice president of Inclusion Canada stated, “Canada cannot begin killing babies when doctors predict there is no hope for them. Predictions are far too often based on discriminatory assumptions about life with a disability.”
Assisted suicide laws have always been about disability. Since the introduction of these laws in America, the top five reasons people receive assisted suicide are not pain-related issues but disability related issues.
As once advertised and purportedly permanent safeguards are loosened and eligibility expands, more and more in the disability community will be targeted, coerced some say, to choose assisted suicide. It is they – people with disabilities – who have been told their quality of life is not worth living, who are not receiving adequate healthcare, or who are suffering from undiagnosed mental illness that are repeatedly told by physicians that assisted suicide would be a worthwhile consideration.
In Canada, these laws are being twisted into modern-day eugenics where doctors like Louis Roy encourage euthanization of infants with disabilities. As Krista Carr points out, “An infant cannot consent to their own death. This isn’t MAiD, it’s murder. And providing MAiD to a person who cannot consent is a standard that is wildly dangerous for all persons with intellectual disabilities in Canada.”
Ben Woodfinden shares a similar concern when he says, “Assisted death or suicide isn’t even the right word for what’s being described here. A baby cannot consent, a baby cannot decide they want to end their own life, it’s not about any kind of ‘choice’ or ‘autonomy.’ It’s straight up infanticide.”
Canadian assisted suicide legislation has expanded at warpspeed from 2016 to 2022. As 2023’s iteration of MAiD looms to reach out and take those with mental illness into its grip, beyond, if doctors like Louis Roy have their way, disabled infants under the age of one, will be next.
Wherever assisted suicide legislation emerges, in it’s planning, always, are those discriminatory assumptions about the value of life with a disability; Safeguards are anticipated as impermanent guideposts by which disabled people are gradually deprived of equal choice and participation in a system that is designed to be two-tiered the moment assisted suicide is included and imposed as health care.
In today’s America, one does not have to look far to see where assisted suicide laws are headed. Across the border, state sanctioned ableism is the new normal. A once vaunted global example of healthcare for all, has been described by some as the closest a nation has come to reviving Nazi regime eugenics since World War II. And raises questions as to whose autonomy is truly being protected: The disabled? Or government backed pro-assisted suicide physicians and their operatives?
Without a strong and concerted opposition to the legalization of assisted suicide, this same process map can and will continue to try to creep into the American healthcare system. It will remove protections for its most vulnerable people and promise the appearance of choice while removing all others. It will because assisted suicide legislation is by design, a dangerous, deceptive and inherently discriminatory practice.