Update on Assisted Suicide & Euthanasia
Since ARPA Canada began almost 15 years ago, several bills have been introduced in the House of Commons and Senate to legalize assisted suicide. With your help, these were all defeated – until 2015. In 2015, efforts to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia went to the Supreme Court of Canada. We intervened in the Carter case, arguing that if we crossed the sacred line of the 6th commandment by deliberating allowing some people to kill other people, it would be impossible to hold a principled line in place. Sadly, that’s exactly what we’ve seen over the past five years, as the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s ban on assisted suicide and euthanasia and looked to Parliament to make a new law.
In 2016, Parliament legalized euthanasia, now referred to as Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), through Bill C-14. At that time, Parliament attempted to put some safeguards in place to ensure that MAiD was limited to those who were actually dying – those whose natural death was, in the words of the law, “reasonably foreseeable.” It was up to MAiD providers to interpret this vague wording. Some defined “reasonably foreseeable” as natural death within the next week or month, while other doctors were content if death was likely within the next 10 years.
Just over 1,000 Canadians died by euthanasia the first year it was legalized; by 2020 that number had risen to more than 7,500. More than 20,000 Canadians have now died by assisted suicide and euthanasia – 99% of those deaths are by euthanasia, where the doctor administers the lethal dose, rather than assisted suicide, where the patient actively takes the lethal dose themselves.
Five years after the passage of Bill C-14, Parliament was supposed to review the law to assess the delivery of MAiD and ensure the safeguards were functioning well. Instead, in 2021, Bill C-7 was passed, expanding access to euthanasia to more people and reducing waiting times, witness requirements, and other safeguards. Now, people with disabilities, certain diseases, or simply old age who are not actually dying are eligible for euthanasia. And, 18 months from now, if the law is not changed, access will automatically expand to those suffering solely from mental illness.
People with advanced cancer or ALS can now request and receive euthanasia on the same day. People paralyzed in a car accident or suffering from a chronic illness such as Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis, can now receive euthanasia after only a 90-day waiting period. Instead of encouraging acceptance and the hard work of living well with a disability, instead of offering pain management therapies and mental health counselling, instead of providing social support and community care, euthanasia addresses suffering by simply eliminating the sufferers.
In response to these recent developments, ARPA Canada updated its policy report on euthanasia and assisted suicide. This report briefly reviews the history of how euthanasia and assisted suicide became legal in Canada and exposes the ableist mindset that allows a law to make judgment calls about who deserves suicide prevention and who deserves suicide assistance.
We review the research on copycat suicides and the potential for social contagion when suicide is glamorized and supported. We share the concerns of disability rights groups and First Nations advocates who know the societal dangers of sanctioning suicide as a viable option for dealing with suffering. We include stories of those pressured to choose MAiD and facts about those who choose MAiD out of fear they will be a burden. And ultimately, we call for change in the law to recognize the inherent value of every human life and upholds the foundational Christian ethic of Western law and human rights which cares for, and does not kill, the weak, sick, disabled, and elderly.
We encourage you to read the report and arrange a phone call or in-person meeting to share it with your Member of Parliament. Visit our Care Not Kill campaign page for more talking points to help you understand the heart of the issue.
And talk about this issue with your elderly or disabled neighbours, both within and outside the church – let them know you do not view them as a person made in God’s image, not as a burden! As Christians, we are not immune to the temptation of euthanasia. It can seem efficient and give us a sense of being in control. But ultimately, we know that life, death, and even suffering are in the hands of our good God. Stemming the tide of euthanasia in Canada will take a concerted, continuing effort to help people understand how and why to care for, not kill, our vulnerable neighbours.