This bill effectively allows medical death on demand for almost anyone who wants it
On Monday, the federal government reintroduced Bill C-7. Under the proposed legislation, medical assistance in dying (MAID) would no longer be offered only to people who are dying, but would include those who are chronically ill and disabled, as well. This bill effectively allows medical death on demand for almost anyone who wants it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us together as a nation to protect our most vulnerable. Canadians supported putting safeguards in place for the sake of the common good. Against this backdrop, it is shocking that our federal government is proposing to remove almost all the safeguards that were previously put in place to protect the vulnerable under MAID.
Under the proposed legislation, and based on known cases, people with a serious illness could receive a lethal injection on the same day that they receive their diagnosis. And while Bill C-7 says patients need to be given information about services that could help alleviate their suffering, there is no responsibility to provide access to those services. How can we say that we are giving people freedom to choose when they are not given access to real and timely medical assistance in living?
Less than 30 per cent of Canadians have access to palliative care, and access to disability supports is limited in many areas. We know that depression and anxiety are common in those facing challenging health situations, but psychiatric care can take months or even years to access.
The July 2020 Health Canada report on MAID detailed the percentages of those accessing palliative care and disability supports, but contained no description of the adequacy of these services, which is necessary to make any meaningful conclusions. Meanwhile, many palliative care and disability experts have been raising their anguished voices over the lack of access to care, which the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified.
The fact is that our medical system is not able to adequately serve our patients. Expanding MAID to all chronically ill and disabled people is not the solution to the scandalous lack of adequate funding, skilled health-care professionals and public services in this country. This bill will throw real options for care out the window for those who need them.
Already, there have been several reported cases of people being pressured to seek MAID. For example, in 2017, Roger Foley, who suffers from a neurological condition, made a recording of his health-care team suggesting that he should seek MAID due to the expense of living in hospital, given that his care needs could not be met at home. There was also the case of Candice Elson, a 25-year-old with a developmental disability and chronic medical problems whose doctor suggested to her mom that she should receive MAID.
Instead of using our resources to increase health-care personnel, improve our quality of care, enhance our palliative care options and ensure quicker access to psychiatric care, our federal government seems more interested in fast-tracking death on demand and dismantling the MAID safeguards that were put in place to protect the vulnerable.
Under this bill, you no longer have to be dying to receive medical assistance in dying, therefore the acronym no longer fits. The procedure more accurately becomes medically administered death (MAD).
The message that C-7 sends to those with chronic illnesses or disabilities is that their lives are not worth living and that they would be better off dead. As physicians, we fear that this system would quickly change from one that gives people a choice to die, to one that coerces people to die. It’s pure MADness!
This article first appeared in the National Post, Oct. 8th, 2020.
Reprinted here with permission of the authors.
Dr. Ramona Coelho is a London, Ont.-based family physician who cares for disabled and marginalized people. Dr. Leonie Herx is an associate professor and chair of the division of palliative medicine at Queen’s University. Dr. Timothy Lau is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Ottawa. Dr. John F. Scott is an associate professor in the division of palliative care at the University of Ottawa.
SIGN THE PARLIAMENTARY PETITION HERE: