Does Canada use the euthanasia law to end its poor?: national debate for two homeless women who requested assisted suicide

In Colombia, 178 euthanasia procedures have been carried out from April 2015 to October 15, 2021. File photo. EFE/Biel Aliño (BIEL ALINO/)

Cases of two poor homeless women who asked to end their lives under the assisted suicide laws in Canada once again opened the debate on this type of legislation in the country. One of them has already done it. The other, is about to achieve it.

In February, a 51-year-old Ontario woman known as Sophia was granted physician-assisted death after her chronic health condition became intolerable and her meager disability stipend left her little to survive on, CTV reported. News.

“The government sees me as expendable, complaining, useless garbage and a pain in the ass”He said in a video that circulated on the networks. For two years, she and her friends pleaded unsuccessfully for better living conditions, because the woman was homeless.

The second case shares several parallels. Another woman, known as Denise, he also applied to end his life after being unable to find adequate housing and struggling to survive on disability payments.

Both were diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCR), a condition in which common chemicals, such as those in cigarette smoke and laundry detergents, can lead to nausea, blinding headaches, and, in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock.

Both women had also argued that specialized housing, where airflow is more controlled, would alleviate their debilitating symptoms. Unable to work, they each received $1,169 a month, putting them well below the poverty line in Canada’s most populous and expensive province.

But in Denise’s case, her request to end her life has yet to be approved.

The two high-profile cases have sparked disbelief and outrage, and shed light on Canada’s right-to-die laws, that critics argue are being misused to punish the poor and sick.

At the end of April, the Spectator published a story with the provocative headline: Why does Canada sacrifice the poor?

But medical and legal experts warn that oversimplified media coverage of the cases fails to capture the realities of the system, warning that sensational coverage of a handful of “extreme” cases ignores a larger crisis in the country’s health systems.

For the activists the cases have come to represent Canada’s lack of attention to its most vulnerable citizens and raised questions about how assisted suicide laws are enforced.

But experts warn that the cases are also being used by groups that oppose medical assistance in death (Maid) in an attempt to reduce the legislation, instead of looking at how governments can improve people living with disabilities. .

“Inadequate housing is not one of the eligibility criteria for medical assistance in dying. While someone’s life circumstances may contribute to their suffering, they do not constitute the serious and irremediable medical condition that must exist.” said Chantal Perrot, a physician and provider for Maid.

The two women were in a situation of extreme poverty, homeless and with chronic health conditions (Reference image) (Rodolfo Angulo/)

Perrot said that while housing might have helped, it was just one part of a larger fight against the chronic condition.

“The only treatment really for that is to avoid all triggers. That is almost impossible to do in ordinary life. So better housing can create a temporary bubble for a person, but there is no cure for this.”said.

“We do this work because we believe in the right of people to assisted dying. It is not always easy to do. But we know that patients need and value it. We live with the challenge of work, in part because it is important to alleviate that suffering”he added.

When Canada introduced assisted suicide legislation in 2016, advocacy groups expressed fear that vulnerable populations could be targeted or that doctors would be forced to rescind the oaths they had taken to protect patents.

Last year, lawmakers revised the criteria for MAID after the country’s supreme court ruled that an earlier version of the law, which excluded people with disabilities, was unconstitutional.

Once again, the issue is before a special joint parliamentary committee tasked with deciding whether to extend access to consenting children and people with mental illness.

Jocelyn Downie, a Dalhousie law professor and end-of-life policy expert consulted by The Guardian, said there are extensive safeguards in the system to protect Canadians.

“You have to meet rigorous eligibility criteria. And being poor and not having a home, or a home that’s right for you, doesn’t make you eligible.” Downy said.

Cases involving a chronic condition are often time-consuming because doctors are working to exhaust all other options to ease their patients’ suffering.

Instead of fighting over the law, which lawmakers are unlikely to strike down given a string of supreme court cases upholding the right to physician-assisted dying, Downie said greater emphasis should be placed on supports and services for the disabled and mental health supports.

The debate is open, while Denise awaits the decision that will allow her to voluntarily end her life.


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