What has been happening around the country as medical aid in dying has gone into effect?

We know that there have been over 4000 euthanasia deaths since legalization in 2016. This is an unusually high number in relation to other jurisdictions around the world.

Here are some of the dreadful realities of legal euthanasia in Canada that we are concerned about.

1.       Doctors have complained that patients are not requesting MAID early enough in the ‘trajectory of their illness.’ Advanced stages in an illness often mean that the patient becomes incapable of consenting or they die before they can be euthanized. Medical staff then improve their ‘education’ about MAID, and expedite the process of administering it. In practical terms, this means that they approach patients in a vulnerable state and introduce thoughts of suicide but also instill a fear of the loss of their faculties. Fear of being incapacitated then becomes a motivating factor for requesting euthanasia.

2.       We are also concerned about reports that patients are being euthanized within 2-3 days from their request of MAID. Again, doctors are expediting the process for fear of their patients being incapacitated before MAID can be administered. The law, as is commonly explained, requires 10 “clear days” between the time of request and the act of euthanizing, but that can be waived in certain circumstances. Research done by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, on a McGill University study of 80 MAID requests, showed that it is common that the 10-day rule is waived.

3.       Patients can, of course, change their minds after making a request for euthanasia. However, even if several doctors believe that the patient is not a candidate for euthanasia, only two doctors are needed to approve it.

4.       Dying with Dignity is supplying ‘volunteers’ to be witnesses if friends or family will not or cannot. (Beneficiaries cannot be witnesses.)

5.       In many provinces, funding has not been allocated to implement MAID, so the funds are being pulled from palliative care. MAID teams are being flown into remote areas where adequate palliative care is not available, making MAID a priority.

In various ways, MAID procedures are being prioritized over palliative care. Due to the requirement that patients must be mentally capable both when they apply for MAID and immediately before it is administered, doctors are suggesting MAID to patients and sometimes trying to induce fear of incapacitation so they will request it in time. MAID, which was meant to be an exception, appears to be happening more frequently than expected.

The response of the health care system and policy makers is to pressure government to allow for advanced directives, another area of MAID legislation that will become increasingly thorny and bring with it a plethora of issues such as forcing an incompetent or unwilling patient to accept euthanasia without their consent at the time of their death, because of a previous directive.

Quebec has also had it’s problems in this regard. The Collège des Médicins in Quebec, which began the whole process of ‘Medical Aid in Dying” two years before Ottawa’s Bill C-14, has sounded the alarm about patients “choosing” medical assistance in dying purely because their preference for palliative care isn’t available.

“End-of-life care cannot be limited simply to medical assistance in dying,” Collége President Dr. Charles Bernard wrote in a publicized letter to provincial Health Minister Gaétan Barrette. “That option makes no sense, from a medical point of view, unless it is part of a robust and complete system of palliative care in Quebec.”

The only way to truly accommodate patients at the end of life is to provide excellent palliative care in a setting that is isolated from and does not involve MAID.

Member of Parliament, Marilyn Gladu is very concerned about the effects of confusing MAID with palliative care. Gladu is the main architect behind the 2017 private members bill on palliative care that was adopted unanimously by both the House of Commons and the Senate. The bill holds the Liberal government accountable to having a framework for palliative care in place nationally.

But at the provincial level, B.C.’s NDP government recently enforced MAiD in all hospices and palliative care centres that receive 50 per cent or more of their funding from tax dollars. This does not set a good precedent for Gladu’s framework.

There are a good many reasons to be very concerned with the state of Medical Aid in Dying in Canada. If you would like to do more, support LifeCanada’s Dying Healed Program.

LifeCanada’s Dying Healed Program provides critical formation on end of life issues. It provides clarity on what euthanasia is and what it is not (a point on which many people are confused), and more importantly, why it is wrong.

The Dying Healed Program affirms human dignity. It tackles deep philosophical issues such as what truly gives us dignity, and the meaning and purpose of human suffering, and provides practical training giving people confidence that their presence at the bedside of a lonely or suffering person is an invaluable service. The program is framed within the context that volunteers are needed to prevent requests for euthanasia/AS. In that sense, it is truly life-saving.

Dozens of workshops have been held across Canada, with the training of more than 500 volunteers, and the cooperation of Dioceses such as Vancouver, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Hamilton and Ottawa.

 

Learn more about our Dying Healed Program at www.maketimeforlife.ca


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