A ‘Right’ to Suicide in Canada Could Soon Become Reality
A Washington Post column on Monday highlighted the fact that assisted suicide in Canada is moving closer and closer to being considered a “right” for anyone, for virtually any reason. While assisted suicide laws in the U.S. are not as freewheeling as Canada’s, more and more states are legalizing the intensely controversial practice, despite the outcry from human rights advocates who point to the inherent value of every human life.
Many see Canada’s assisted suicide laws as the most unrestricted and unmonitored in the world, where “any adult with a serious illness, disease or disability” can seek the help of a medical professional to commit suicide. A recent AP report noted:
- “Unlike Belgium and the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal for two decades, Canada doesn’t have monthly commissions to review potentially troubling cases”;
- “Canada is the only country that allows nurse practitioners, not just doctors, to end patients’ lives. Medical authorities in its two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec, explicitly instruct doctors not to indicate on death certificates if people died from euthanasia”;
- While Belgium and Australia forbid doctors from mentioning assisted suicide, “[t]here are no such restrictions in Canada. The association of Canadian health professionals who provide euthanasia tells physicians and nurses to inform patients if they might qualify to be killed, as one of their possible ‘clinical care options.’”
- “Next year, the country is set to allow people to be killed exclusively for mental health reasons” and is also considering allowing “‘mature’ minors — children under 18 who meet the same requirements as adults” to choose suicide.
As pointed out by The Washington Post’s J.J. McCullough, Canada’s seeming relentless push to liberalize its assisted suicide laws appears to be having a dramatic affect on Canadian society. In 2021, “10,064 medically-assisted voluntary deaths” occurred in the country. As The New Atlantis’s Alexander Raikin recently observed, this number of assisted suicides dwarfs the number in California (486) during the same period, which has roughly the same size population.
In the U.S., an increasing trend in states legalizing assisted suicide has been occurring over the last four years, with five states (California, New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, and Vermont) moving to allow the practice. Five other states (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Montana) plus the District of Columbia have legalized the practice since 1997.
Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, expressed grave concern about the message that pro-assisted suicide laws send to those with disabilities and those struggling with severe illnesses.
“The increased legalization of assisted suicide around the world is simply a symptom of a culture that fails to respect the dignity of every human being,” she told The Washington Stand. “According to the most recent data from Oregon, the state in the U.S. where assisted suicide has been legalized for the longest amount of time, the top five reasons why people choose assisted suicide are the loss of autonomy (93%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (92%), loss of dignity (68%), burden on family, friends/caregivers (54%), and loss of control of bodily functions (47%). These are challenges that many people with disabilities face every day. People are not choosing to end their lives because of their terminal illness but because of the disabilities caused by their terminal illness.”
“The increased legalization of assisted suicide around the world sends the message that a life with disabilities is not a life worth living — that it is a life without dignity,” Szoch concluded. “We must work to combat this narrative. Every life has worth and incalculable value — even the lives of those who are suffering. A truly compassionate response to immense suffering does not eliminate the person experiencing pain or difficulty; instead, a truly compassionate response includes a willingness to suffer with another.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.