CW: Assisted Suicide
A growing coalition of disability and mental health organizations have been actively pushing against Canada’s liberalized MAiD (medical assistance in dying) policy, including posting signs promising patients that they will not be recommended for assisted suicide.
In Canada, MAiD was initially legalized in 2016. Although the program was initially limited to those whose deaths were “reasonably foreseeable,” successive court challenges compelled the federal government to expand eligibility to anybody claiming a “grievous” or “irremediable” condition.
Since 2016, the number of Canadians dying by assisted suicide has increased drastically year after year. In 2021, the most recent full year for which data was available, 10,064 Canadians died from MAID while under a doctor’s care.
This was a 32.4% rise from the 7,630 Canadians who died in 2019. Shockingly, the percentage of people dying by MAiD in Canada has nearly doubled since 2018. Five years ago, 5,661 Canadians died after pursuing MAiD.
Some people were approved for MAiD due to their living situations. Last year, a Toronto woman opted to pursue it after she failed to find accessible, safe housing. The woman has chemical sensitivities.
Rashes, breathing difficulties, and blinding headaches known as hemiplegic migraines, which cause temporary paralysis, are among the symptoms. The woman says cigarette smoke, laundry detergents, and air fresheners make her sick. She keeps EpiPens on her person at all times because she is at risk of anaphylactic shock. As a result of a spinal cord injury, she also uses a wheelchair.
In another case, Amir Farsoud sustained a back injury that left him in excruciating pain. He applied because he fears losing his home and would rather die than be homeless. Farsoud has already received approval from his doctor stating that he meets the criteria for physical pain caused by an intolerable disability that cannot be relieved. He still needs one more doctor’s approval to be eligible.
Farsoud shares a rooming house with two other people that is currently for sale. He claims he cannot afford to live elsewhere because he receives social assistance. Farsoud gets about $1,200 in ODSP per month. after paying $690 in rent and bills, he has about $7.00 per day for food. Making matters worse, the wait for affordable housing lasts seven years where he lives.
Joannie Cowie, 52, of Windsor, Ontario, is considering medical aid in dying since her disabilities have caused her to live in poverty. Her medical conditions include asthma, COPD, cancer, and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Cowie says that if she chose MAiD, she could die in 90 days.
Cowie is unable to work and does not have any family support. Her daughter, a disabled college student, lives with her. They must work together to make ends meet on $1,228 from Ontario’s disability support program. Cowie also receives a small sum of money for her daughter. She couldn’t afford a Butterball turkey for Thanksgiving. The family only has $59 to spend on groceries every month.
Why is it easier for disabled people to die than it is for them to live? Disability benefits need to provide a livable income for everyone who needs them. We should be able to get the help we require in order to live our lives to the fullest. People are dying as a result of a broken system.
Favaro, Avis. “Woman with Disabilities Nears Medically Assisted Death after Futile Bid for Affordable Housing.” CTVNews, CTV News, 30 Apr. 2022, https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/woman-with-disabilities-nears-medically-assisted-death-after-futile-bid-for-affordable-housing-1.5882202.
Hopper, Tristin. “Disability Rights Groups Fight against Euthanasia.” National Post, Postmedia Network, 5 Jan. 2023, https://nationalpost.com/opinion/disability-rights-groups-euthanasia.
Leffler, Brennan, and Marianne Dimain. “How Poverty, Not Pain, Is Driving Canadians with Disabilities to Consider Medically-Assisted Death.” Global News, Global News, 8 Oct. 2022, https://globalnews.ca/news/9176485/poverty-canadians-disabilities-medically-assisted-death/.
Mulligan, Cynthia, and Meredith Bond. “Ontario Man Applying for Medically-Assisted Death as Alternative to Being Homeless.” CityNews, Rogers Sports & Media, 13 Oct. 2022, https://toronto.citynews.ca/2022/10/13/medical-assistance-death-maid-canada/.