The Violence of Euthanasia in Canada
“Euthanasia is an intrinsically evil act, in every situation or circumstance…Any formal or immediate material cooperation in such an act is a grave sin against human life.” ― Samaritanus Bonus, §5
I’ve said in the past that on many matters Canada gives us a glimpse of what lies five-to-ten years down the road if we don’t do everything in our power to stop our country’s slide towards the culture of death.
With populations across the developed world aging, it has become clear that the next front in the battle against the culture of death will focus on end-of-life issues. Currently, the push is on in the United States to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. Tragically, several states (CA, CO, HI, ME, NJ, NM, OR, VT, and WA and the District of Columbia) have already legalized the practice, with more considering legislation in favor of this violent and deadly act.
Canada legalized so-called Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) nationally in 2016. While pro-euthanasia activists argued at the time that the law included robust protections, and would only be applied in a limited, carefully regulated fashion, a flood of information in recent months has revealed a dystopian picture.
Rather than being used in limited, rare cases, euthanasia and assisted suicide have rapidly become common in Canada. The result is that vulnerable persons are being shuttled towards death, which is being actively promoted as the cheaper, easier alternative to providing care to those who need it most.
Some of the stories that have emerged are so horrific that, in the face of a backlash from organizations and individuals that span the political divide, even the unapologetically progressive Trudeau government has temporarily shelved plans to further liberalize the law.
Canada’s Dr. Death
In a recent in-depth look into Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) practices, The New Atlantis reported on one Canadian doctor – Ellen Wiebe – who claims to have personally euthanized over 400 people. In recent remarks to a group of colleagues involved in euthanasia, she called it “the most rewarding work we’ve ever done.”
Wiebe even boasts of how she has euthanized individuals that failed to qualify under Canada’s permissive rules. As The New Atlantis reports, one case involved a man who was refused MAID because he wasn’t suffering from a severe illness, nor did he have the “capacity to make informed decisions about his own personal health.”
One government assessor wrote about his case, “it is very clear that he does not qualify.” However, a pro-euthanasia group that Wiebe belongs to, Dying with Dignity Canada, connected the man with Wiebe. He flew to meet her in Vancouver, she picked him up from the airport, and then gave him a lethal injection at her clinic.
As The New Atlantis reports, despite the Trudeau government’s protests that MAID is governed by “robust” safeguards, in reality it is easy for those seeking euthanasia or assisted suicide to “doctor shop.” Although the law requires two doctors to sign off on the euthanasia request, the reality is – as Jocelyn Downie, a pro-euthanasia law professor said at a seminar – “you can ask as many clinicians as you want or need.”
In other words, if you’re determined to get access to MAID, you can, no matter what the law says. Even if what Wiebe and others like her do clearly violates the letter of the law, the fact is that prosecutions are rare, if not non-existent. The macabre irony, then, is that even as Canada supports a government-funded 24-hour suicide-prevention hotline, that same government is paying doctors to kill suicidal people. The right-hand saves; the left-hand kills.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Dr. Wiebe is also an abortionist. Evidently, as a doctor she feels that her calling in life is to turn the Hippocratic Oath on its head. Rather than protecting and serving life, she has made it her mission to take life at both ends of the spectrum. And the Canadian government is actively empowering and paying her to indulge her perverse proclivities.
‘I Don’t Want to Die’
Euthanasia and assisted suicide undermine the fundamental duty we have to take care of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society, from conception to natural death, at all stages and in all conditions.
As Pope St. John Paul II says,
True “compassion” leads to sharing another’s pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. Moreover, the act of euthanasia appears all the more perverse if it is carried out by those, like relatives, who are supposed to treat a family member with patience and love, or by those, such as doctors, who by virtue of their specific profession are supposed to care for the sick person even in the most painful terminal stages (Evangelium vitae, no 66).
Authentic compassion is something, says Pope Francis that “does not marginalize anyone, nor does it humiliate and exclude – much less considers the disappearance of a person as a good thing,” (Address to Managers of the Medical Orders of Spain and Latin America, June 9, 2016).
In Canada, people are being euthanized not because they are suffering from an incurable, serious illness (still not morally permissible), but rather because they lack access to the healthcare or housing that they need to live with dignity. Some of these people have made it clear that, if it was up to them, they would rather live. But instead of making efforts to ensure their needs are met, government assessors and doctors are simply approving their requests for euthanasia.
Take the case of Rosina Kamis. Despite the fact that Kamis suffered from a variety of illnesses, including fibromyalgia, leukemia, and various mental illnesses, she was not dying. Nor did she necessarily want to die.
Her main complaint, as she made clear in notes and videos, is that she was suffering mentally. And this was in significant measure due to loneliness, the looming threat of eviction from her apartment, and the fact that she felt like a burden to others. In the end, she chose to be euthanized on her ex-husband’s birthday, which was also the anniversary of his wedding to his next wife.
Kamis wrote in an e-mail, “Since my ex-husband hates me so much to the point, he doesn’t care whether I am dead or not, he can celebrate that I am completely dead on his wedding anniversary and birthday.” This is not a case of “dying with dignity.” This is a case of letting despair win: indeed, of encouraging and empowering despair.
Or take the case of Les Landry. Landry developed a severe reaction to anesthesia during a surgery in 2009. Like Kamis, however, he is not dying from his condition. However, recently he turned 65, which means that he lost his disability welfare payments, and instead was put on a pension. However, the pension amount is considerably less than the disability payments, leaving him unable to afford the treatments and food he needs to live.
“Even at 65, I don’t want to die,” he told the Daily Mail. Recently he received his first approval for euthanasia. At the time the article was published, he was still alive. Please pray for him, that he can find help.
Wiebe, shockingly, defends these cases. In response to questions from The New Atlantis, Wiebe admitted that there are cases in which patients seek euthanasia due to “unmet needs” that have to do with “loneliness and poverty.” But instead of agreeing that more needs to be done to ensure that those unmet needs are fulfilled, she added coldly, “As all Canadians have rights to an assisted death, people who are lonely or poor also have those rights.”
Trudeau Government Delays Plans
The violent, discriminating, and non-compassionate mindset of euthanasia and assisted suicide targets the most vulnerable members of our society, particularly the elderly and persons with disabilities, suggesting their lives are not worth living.
“No one,” says the Declaration on Euthanasia “is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care;” moreover,
Nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity.
Sadly, last year, the Trudeau government passed regulations designed to further liberalize Canada’s already shockingly permissive euthanasia regime. These new regulations would open euthanasia and assisted suicide to those suffering from mental illness.
Every right-minded person is naturally horrified at this idea. Any healthy society recognizes that the right response to mental illness is not to kill, but rather to provide the medical care and counselling that will alleviate this suffering. For many people, major depressive episodes are transitory, and suicidal ideation passes. The way to deal with people inclined towards suicide is not to kill them, but to love them through their suffering, guiding them out of the dark tunnel of depression, despair, and fear towards hope.
In response to the government’s plans, over 50 disability rights and human rights groups in Canada sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, as well as several other leading government officials, expressing their “concern and opposition.”
“The legalization of MAID for mental illness is a discriminatory process that is made worse by systematic poverty, a national housing crisis, and inadequate access to support in the community,” they wrote. “We know, as do you, that the existing law is not working and has not worked, and that people with disabilities have been dying by MAID due to their life circumstances and oppression. To legalize MAID for mental illness would pour gas on a fire that is already out of control.”
It’s important to note that the groups that signed this letter are not motivated by conservative religious beliefs. Their ideological allegiances cross the political divide. Instead, these advocates for the disabled and otherwise vulnerable are rightly horrified that the Canadian government is endorsing measures that would pressure vulnerable Canadians into choosing death over life.
The letter concludes by urging the Canadian government to permanently shelve plans to extend euthanasia to the mentally ill and those who are not terminally ill. “We cannot allow systematic discrimination of this magnitude and risk to continue,” they wrote. “The government’s ill-considered, trial-and-error experiment on the lives of persons with disabilities is failing.”
Fortunately, this letter, as well as the growing outrage in the media and among ordinary Canadians, seems to have had some effect. Shortly before Christmas, the Canadian government announced that it was “delaying” the new regulations.
This, however, is not good enough. All signs suggest that the government still intends to follow through with their plans.
Let Us Take the Warning
What Canada has shown is how slippery is the slope that leads from a supposedly “strict” euthanasia law with “rigorous safeguards” towards a dystopian free-for-all. This should not come as a surprise, however. As anti-euthanasia activists have long pointed out, many of the practical incentives favor death in complicated cases. Euthanasia is cheaper and easier than solving complicated cases of physical or mental suffering.
That is why sane societies outlaw euthanasia and assisted suicide: to shift the incentives away from killing, towards the difficult, but humanizing work of caring. “Every human life, unique and unrepeatable, has value in and of itself, and it is of inestimable value,” proclaims Pope Francis. “This must always be proclaimed anew with the courage of the Word and the courage of actions. It calls us to solidarity and fraternal love for the great human family and for each of its members” (25th Anniversary of Evangelium vitae March 25, 2020).
We must reject euthanasia and its deadly mindset; it is a false mercy, and indeed a disturbing “perversion” of mercy. Only the most callous and inhumane societies celebrate the choice of death over life. Let us pray that Canada (as well as the U.S and other nations that have embraced this mentality) claws its way out of this dark and evil pit into which it has climbed.
Let us take warning. Under the Trudeau government, Canada’s health care system enthusiastically embraced MAID. The results speak for themselves. Instead of following their lead, let us begin building the robust structures designed to prioritize authentic care for human persons, who are always deserving of respect at all stages and in all conditions, and working to ensure that no one ever feels the need to end their life because they have become a “burden.”
Thank you for this article. I am encouraged by your suggestion, “let us begin building the robust structures designed to prioritize authentic care for human persons.” Simply opposing euthanasia is not working. We can’t just say “No” forever – we must offer better alternatives. One place to start is by building quality palliative care in our health systems. If suffering can be adequately ameliorated, the drumbeat for assisted suicide will become weak.