A Loosened Assisted Death Law Draws Critics

In Canada, those with a chronic illness who aren't terminally ill can qualify to die
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2022 11:15 AM CDT
A Loosened Assisted Death Law Draws Critics
   (Getty Images / Pornpak Khunatorn)

In 2016, Canada legalized assisted death, and by the end of last year, some 31,644 Canadians had opted to die under the law. The New York Times looks at just 224 of them, who were not terminally ill but were able to secure permission to end their lives thanks to a change made to the law in 2021. Canada is now one of three countries (Belgium and the Netherlands are the others) where people can qualify for assisted death if they're suffering from chronic, "grievous and irremediable" conditions, even if it is not "reasonably foreseeable" that their condition will kill them. The law is set to be broadened even more, in March 2023, to include people suffering from some mental disorders.

But even in its current state the law is drawing critics—including family members who feel blindsided by a relative's choice—despite the government's assertion that the program is working as it should and not being abused. The AP zeroes in on one case, of a 61-year-old who was hospitalized in the summer of 2019 over fears he was suicidal. His family said that he died by euthanasia shortly thereafter, and that his application simply listed "hearing loss" as his reason for wanting to die. The Daily Beast shares the story of a woman in her 50s with suspected long COVID. Unable to work and with mounting financial concerns, she too has applied for medical assistance in dying, or MAID.

"What was originally conceived as an exceptional practice in medicine has quickly become normalized," Trudo Lemmens, a health law expert at the University of Toronto, tells the Lancet. "Even before the law is set to be expanded to include mentally ill patients, we already have worryingly high numbers of people dying," he added, noting Canada's requirements are less stringent than those in Belgium and the Netherlands. There, the AP notes patients must first exhaust all other treatment options; that's not required in Canada. (Read more assisted suicide stories.)

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