Is a lack of affordable care options forcing some to choose assisted suicide?


There has been a flurry of discourse in the media regarding ways to make medically assisted death more accessible for Canadians, including reports on the Quebec ruling to overturn the criterion that one’s death must be “reasonably foreseeable” and the Alzheimer Society of Canada position statement supporting advance requests for medical assistance in dying (MAiD). Notably absent from the discussion is how to address the reasons compelling Canadians to choose MAiD.

Available data from the United States reveal that requests for assisted death are less commonly due to suffering because of physical reasons such as pain. Rather, requests for assisted death are often made because of suffering associated with the loss of enjoyment of life, loss of autonomy, loss of independence, and worry about being a burden to others.

In a recent article in The Conversation, Barbara Pesut and Sally Thorne report that patients are choosing assisted death as the “antidote to a system that fails in compassion or equitable palliative care access” and that MAiD might be chosen by those who lack access to palliative care at home or, as an alternative to what they describe as the “dehumanizing environments” of institutional care. Their words echo those of Sean Tagert, a heavy equipment operator from Powell River, B.C., who died via MAiD in August at the age of 40, after a long, fruitless fight to receive funding for care at home…

Nobody should be forced to choose medically assisted dying because they cannot afford the care they need to go on living. A young father may have left his life and loved ones too early, not just because of an incurable illness but because our health care system failed to provide the support we all need and deserve at the end of life.

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