The Canadian Way to Die: How Assisted Suicide Law Became the Laxest in the World

A nurse prepares an injection

In 2016, the Canadian government legalized the medically assisted death through a program called Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) which translates as “Medical Assistance for Dying”, after a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada which concluded that laws preventing assisted suicide stifled individual rights.

The program MAID it was defined on the basis that doctors and nurses would administer lethal injections or deadly drugs only to patients who met certain criteria, such as a serious illness or disability, whether the patient was in an “advanced stage” of decline that could not be reversed, whether the patient was experiencing unbearable physical or mental suffering, whether the patient was at the point where natural death had become “reasonably foreseeable”.

Such a law would not endanger those psychologically vulnerable and not close to death.

However, in 2021 the criterion that natural death must be “reasonably foreseeable” was lifted, which generated a high level of concern in a significant number of people, because a large number of stories began to appear in the media. , describing how the state was granting access to assisted suicide to people who might not meet the original criteria.

Increase in assisted suicide cases

This year, the number of people to whom assisted suicide was applied was more than 10,000, that is, one in every 30 deaths in the country had an intervention and the assistance of other people. Most often a lethal injection was used.

Almost all the people who died in this way were elderly and on the verge of perishing, but those who seek assisted suicide tend to achieve it, according to the newspaper. The Atlantic.

In that same year, only 4 percent of those who submitted written applications were found ineligible.

Just five years earlier, critics of the law MAID they warned that distraught and near-death people would not be the only ones who would be helped to die. That warning turned out to be an understatement at the time. In a few years, Canada went from being a country that had prohibited assisted suicide to being one of the most lax in the world to authorize it.

A patient receives assisted dying treatment.  Stock image.  EFE/Martin Divisek/
A patient receives assisted dying treatment. Stock image. EFE/Martin Divisek/ (MARTIN DIVISEK/)

For his part, he Quebec College of Physicianswhich is in charge of regulating medical practice in that entity, assured that the practice “is not a political, moral or religious issue. It’s a medical problem.”

The focus of the debate has shifted and the main question is no longer: “Should the state help those who suffer at the end of life to die?” Now there is a moral dilemma that, according to The Atlantic, opens the way to raising extreme situations that were previously undebatable: if you see someone running onto a bridge and planning to jump, should you try to stop them? Or should you think that diving into the water is their decision and give them a useful push?

A study last year in the Journal of Ethics in Mental Health found that in four countries (Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium) where assisted dying is legal, “there have been very steep increases in suicide”, including assisted and unassisted. The fear that has arisen among some people and experts is that doctors who help a person to die may be influencing not only the decision of those who asked to end their lives, but also the suicides of people they will never see.

Keep reading:

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