Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Poverty and euthanasia has created public interest but euthanasia is abhorrent on its own.

Gordon Friesen
by Gordon Friesen, EPC President
A welcome revival of interest in the euthanasia question.
For a brief space, it seemed that the euthanasia question had been settled; people had lost interest in arguing the issue. Not even the enlargements of C-7 [i]were enough to overcome that inertia.

In recent months, however, "Medical Assistance in Dying", has returned painfully to the public mind.[ii] Stories abound of horrible examples and unintended consequences.[iii] [iv] Canadian soldiers offered MAID for PTSD;[v] patients bullied to accept MAID;[vi] [vii] even choosing MAID to avoid disabled homelessness.[viii] These terrible anecdotes caught public attention as no amount of argument had succeeded in doing before.

Our magic bullet misses the mark

Unfortunately, however, the running battle of policy debate is a dynamic one of trial and error, where adversaries rapidly adapt to counter the successes of their opponents.

In this case, it was not long before euthanasia enthusiasts had found the means to nullify our disabled poverty narrative. Speaking of presentations by pro-euthanasia professionals, a recent New Atlantis Article states:[ix]
"Gibb-Carsley and Kevin Reel do not present euthanasia driven by poverty as a problem for MAID. Actually, they suggest, it presents an opportunity to highlight the real problem: the inadequacy of the welfare state.

It’s as if the situation offers a silver lining. Reel excitedly talks about the problem as an “extraordinary lever” to lobby for improved welfare."
In other words; Kumbaya! We all agree that there are "structural inequities". We all want improved welfare supports. We are on the same team! We are reading from the same page! "But it doesn’t mean that we should be sheltering people from the option of having an assisted death"

And how must we respond?
It is simply necessary for us to recall, that it is not poverty which makes euthanasia abhorrent: euthanasia is abhorrent on its own!
The definition of "Medical Assistance in Dying" tells us that it is appropriate for some people to die by lethal injection; but only for these, and for no one else.

We must never tire of repeating that this definition creates a terrible discriminatory burden.

It also follows that some poor people are accordingly eligible for euthanasia. And it is inevitable that some of these privileged few will indeed choose to die, not because of the medical reasons which render them eligible, but because they are poor.

Yet contrary to what our opponents allege, it is not poverty that we must blame. At least not in this context. The problem of poverty is always present. Poor people suffer. Poor people die of suicide. In the worst of cases, poor people die of poverty itself.

However, ONLY SOME PEOPLE (whether they be poor or not) are eligible to be put down by lethal injection, like dogs at the vet.

The bottom line

Poverty high-lights the problem of euthanasia in a particularly graphic way. But poverty is not the cause of this problem (and even doing away with poverty, entirely, would in no way solve it). For as long as there is legal euthanasia based on medical criteria, there will be discriminatory eligibility, and discriminatory death.

Most importantly: The shortest road to solving the euthanasia problem is to seek legislative initiatives narrowly designed to restrict this practice, or to remove it entirely.

Stories of euthanasia and poverty will help us to that end. But we must refuse to confound the immediate tragedy of euthanasia (and its very realistic solutions) with greater social narratives of a much more complex, and uncertain nature.

Gordon Friesen is a disabled individual who has followed the assisted death debate closely since the early 1990s.

[i] Friesen, G. March 22, 2021, Beyond C-7 and death on demand -- competent choice is the new frontier, or death with no demand, (Link).

[ii] Coelho R., Lemmens T., Gaind K. S., Maher J. Normalizing Death as “Treatment” in Canada: Whose Suicides do we Prevent, and Whose do we Abet?. World Medical Journal. 2022;70(3):27-35. (Link).

[iii] Favaro A. Woman with chemical sensitivities chose medically- assisted death after failed bid to get better housing CTV. 2022 (Link) accessed December 23, 2022

[iv] Daflos P. Police investigation, public outcry following B.C. woman’s medically assisted death CTV. 2022 (Link) accessed December 23, 2022

[v] Veterans offerred maid for PTSD (Link) accessed December 23, 2022

[vi] Roger Foley STANDING COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2020 (Link) (intervention at 11:10) accessed December 23, 2022

[vii] Geoff Bartlett · CBC News · Jul 24, 2017 Mother says doctor brought up assisted suicide option as sick daughter was within earshot (Link) accesed December 23, 2022

[viii] LEWIS PENNOCK, DAILYMAIL.COM, 9 December 2022 'I don't want to die, but I don't want to be homeless': Canadian man, 65, has a doctor's approval for euthanasia despite admitting becoming POOR is a main reason he's applying to die (Link) accessed December 23, 2022 (Video Link)

[ix] Alexander Raikin, “No Other Options,” The New Atlantis, Number 71, Winter 2023, pp. 3–24; (Link) accessed January 10, 2023

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