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Rapid Expansion of Assisted Suicide Laws Raises Concern

As number of medically assisted deaths climbs, so do concerns over its use.

The debate on Canada’s assisted suicide laws continues to heat up. In just six years, the “safeguards” in place are already loosening, as they have here in the US in the states where it’s legal, and people who do not have “terminal” prognoses, but struggle with mental health issues, will have access to lethal drugs through this discriminatory public policy.

One advocate against the expansion of the law and the rapid rise of assisted suicides is Trudo Lemmens, who is the chair of health law and policy at the University of Toronto.

“Lemmens said it’s not entirely clear why Canada’s MAID [assisted suicide] numbers have risen so quickly, but he suspects a growing and troubling acceptance of assisted death in the health-care system and the liberalization of the program that in 2021 widened its criteria beyond people in an irreversible state of decline who face a foreseeable death. ‘We need to know more — I’m concerned because MAID is not what was originally put forward… it’s clearly no longer an exceptional procedure,’ he said.”

Assisted suicide does not actually address a patients needs. It exploits people in vulnerable circumstances and encourages them to end their lives when what they really need is care and advocacy.

On the opposite side, Helen Long, the CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, states that “concerns that the disabled and those in despair over inadequate levels of social supports are vulnerable to assisted death should be monitored… But those are not reasons to block the provision or even halt expanding its eligibility to include those under age 18 considered ‘mature minors,’ which is now under consideration.”

The top five reasons given by patients for requesting assisted suicide in legal American states like Oregon, however, are disability-related concerns. An inability to enjoy life, loss of autonomy, loss of dignity, being a burden on family, and losing control of bodily functions are at the top of the list (1).

There are already cases of limited access to social support or care for those with a disability in both countries. What makes supporters of assisted suicide think that, if people with a disability are already being steered toward or encouraged to consider assisted suicide, expanding the eligibility of the law is still a good idea? If there is discrimination now, expanding the law will only put more people at risk of dying by assisted suicide who really need palliative care, suicide help, treatment for their mental illness, or services and support for their disabilities. Assisted suicide and euthanasia laws are already dangerous expansion only adds insult to injury.

 

(1) Oregon Death With Dignity Act

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