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Most-read 2022: Why is Canada euthanising the poor?

We’re ending the year by re-publishing our top ten most-loved articles of 2022. Here’s number one: Yuan Yi Zhu’s April article on Canada’s euthanasia policy.

There is an endlessly repeated quip by the poet Anatole France that “the law in its majestic equality forbids both rich and poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread”. What France certainly did not anticipate is that an entire country – and a demonstratively progressive one at that – decided to take its sarcasm at face value and bring it to its natural end.

As of last year, Canadian law in all its majesty allows both the rich and poor to kill themselves if they are too poor to continue to live in dignity. In fact, the ever-generous Canadian state will even pay for her death. What it won’t do is spend money so they can live instead of killing themselves.

As with most slippery slopes, it all started with a strongly worded denial of its existence. In 2015, Canada’s Supreme Court reversed 22 years of its own jurisprudence by overturning the nation’s ban on assisted suicide as unconstitutional, blithely dismissing fears that the ruling would start “a slippery descent into murder” against those in need of protection to anecdotal examples. The following year, Parliament duly passed legislation allowing euthanasia, but only for those suffering from an incurable disease whose natural death was “reasonably foreseeable.”

Although the government insists that euthanasia is about individual autonomy, it has also kept an eye on tax benefits

It was just five years before the proverbial cliff came into view when the Canadian Parliament passed Bill C-7, a sweeping euthanasia bill that repealed the “reasonably foreseeable” requirement — and the requirement that the condition should be “terminal.” Well, as long as someone suffers from an illness or disability that cannot be alleviated under conditions you deem acceptable“ you can take advantage of what is now euphemistically known as “medical euthanasia” (MAID for short).

Canadians from across the country soon found that although they would otherwise prefer to live, they were too poor to improve their living conditions to an acceptable level.

Not coincidentally, Canada has some of the lowest welfare spending of any industrialized country, palliative care is accessible only to a minority, and waiting times in the public health sector can be excruciating, to the point that the same Supreme Court that legalized euthanasia declared those waiting times a year 2005 as a violation of the right to life.

Many in healthcare came to the same conclusion. Even before Bill C-7 was passed, reports of abuse were widespread. A man with a neurodegenerative disease testified before Parliament that nurses and a medical ethicist at a hospital tried to force him to commit suicide by threatening to bankrupt him with extra charges or throw him out of the hospital and him Withhold water for 20 days days. Virtually every disability rights group in the country opposed the new law. Ineffective: For once, the government found it convenient to ignore these otherwise perfectly progressive groups.

Since then things have only gotten worse. A woman in Ontario was forced into euthanasia because her housing benefit didn’t allow her to get better housing, which didn’t aggravate her crippling allergies. Another disabled woman filed for death because she “simply can’t afford to go on living”. Another sought euthanasia because of being unable to pay for the treatment that kept her chronic pain bearable due to Covid-related debt – under the current administration, disabled Canadians received $600 in additional financial assistance during Covid; Students got $5,000.

When the family of a 35-year-old disabled man who resorted to euthanasia arrived at the nursing home where he was living, they found “urine on the floor… spots where feces were on the floor… spots where your feet just stuck. If you stood by his bed and wanted to walk away, your foot would literally get stuck. According to the Canadian government, the law on assisted suicide is about “prioritis”.[ing] the individual autonomy of Canadians”; one may wonder how much autonomy a disabled man, lying in his own filth, had to weigh death over life.

Although the Canadian government insists that assisted suicide is about individual autonomy, it has also kept an eye on the tax advantages. Even before Bill C-7 went into effect, the country’s parliamentary budget commissioner released a report on the associated cost savings: While the old MAID regime saved $86.9 million a year — a “net cost reduction,” in the sterile words of the report – Bill C-7 would create additional net savings of $62 million per year. Health care, especially for the chronically ill, is expensive; but assisted suicide only costs taxpayers $2,327 per “case.” And, of course, those who rely entirely on state Medicare represent a far greater drain on the state coffers than those who have savings or private insurance.

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And yet Canada’s lavishly subsidized media, with a few honorable exceptions, has shown remarkably little interest in the open social murder of citizens in one of the world’s wealthiest countries. Perhaps journalists, like many doctors, are afraid of being accused of being “not progressive” because they question the new culture of death, a fatal accusation in polite circles. Canada’s public broadcaster, which assured Canadians in 2020 that there was “no association between poverty and choosing medically-assisted death,” has little to say about subsequent developments.

Next year will see the floodgates open even wider when the mentally ill – another disproportionately poor group – are eligible for assisted suicide, although enthusiastic doctors and nurses have already forestalled the law. There is already talk of allowing “mature minors” access to euthanasia – just think of the lifetime savings. But remember that slippery slopes are always a fallacy.

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