Introduced in 2016, Canada’s euthanasia programme initially served only terminally ill patients but soon expanded to adults with non-fatal serious illnesses or disabilities. Lionel Shriver in UnHerd believes the programme has overstepped its bounds. Here’s an excerpt:
While the strongest candidates for a gentle, legal assisted death are patients with agonising terminal illnesses, any respectable libertarian would maintain that outfits such as Dignitas in Switzerland simply provide a service, of which consumers in any medical condition should be free to avail themselves. And for lack of a better word, I’m a libertarian.
I gained an appreciation for how being alive could simply fail a clinical cost-benefit analysis in the summer of 2020. For five days, I was in such blinding pain from a nerve in my spine that I awoke each morning screaming at my poor husband: “I would rather be dead!” I wasn’t being histrionic. Well, okay, I was – but I was also brutally sincere. Had remaining alive been conditioned on such intense and unrelenting suffering forever more, for the first time I could see a persuasive case for calling it quits. During the blackest periods of those days, on which I took half an hour to descend a single flight of stairs, I was incapable of pleasure, humour or love. The sole thought in my head was that I would do anything to get the pain to stop.
Canada has an unusually liberal programme called Medical Assistance in Dying, or Maid – although this acronym doesn’t tidy your flat but sponges your existence from the known universe. The Great White North should, therefore, represent my perverse version of Valhalla. Instead, Maid’s lax protocols make me queasy. In theory, maybe everyone has a right to die if they want to. In practice, maybe the state needs to keep a tight regulatory reign on whom it graciously provides a one-way ticket to nowhere.
Introduced in 2016, Canada’s Government-sanctioned euthanasia by medically administered lethal injection and legalisation of assisted suicide (there’s a difference; the latter usually entails patients themselves swallowing fatal tablets prescribed by a doctor) were initially intended to put the terminally ill who’d had enough out of their misery. Yet sister programmes in the seven other countries that permit euthanasia generally restrict the pool of applicants to people destined to die naturally within six months. Maid initially codified no such limitation, merely citing vaguely that death should be “reasonably foreseeable”, as it is for all us mortals. Hypothetically, then, even the programme as originally conceived could have been open to people whose ailments would only kill them many years hence. Yet, bolstering its critics’ “slippery slope” argument, the programme soon radically loosened its restrictions. Assisted dying is now available in Canada to all adults with a serious illness or disability, regardless of whether the source of their torment would be fatal over time.
Most controversially, the Government is considering the offer of lethal injection to “mature minors” – whatever that means. The programme is also set to extend to Canadians who are mentally ill. That said, the start date of state-sponsored death for the psychologically unwell (which on one day or another would probably include us all) has been pushed back to March 2024, indicating a degree of bureaucratic anxiety. …
Maid is popular in Canada. In a recent Research Co. poll, 73% of Canadians approved of the regime in its current form, while only 16% opposed it. Moreover, a goodly measure of Canadians would be happy for the programme to expand further: 27% claimed Maid should be an option even for people whose only affliction was ‘poverty’; 28% would offer state-sponsored oblivion to the homeless. A fifth of respondents would provide Maid to anybody for any reason. Sean Tagert’s was one of several cases of Canadians finally choosing death after years of struggling to obtain sufficient health care, and a hefty 51% of poll respondents believed that “inability to receive medical treatment” should qualify applicants for the needle.
Worth reading in full.