December 8, 2022 - 4:00pm

Only months after the last effort to legalise euthanasia was halted in the House of Lords, MPs have announced a new enquiry into assisted dying, ‘with a focus on the healthcare aspects’.

The enquiry proposes to explore issues such as quality of palliative care provision in the UK, the professional and ethical implications of permitting doctors to end someone’s life, and what provisions could be put in place to prevent people being coerced into it.

But it should surely only be necessary to look across the Atlantic, to the horror stories now pouring out of Canada. Since 2016, this nation has by degrees rolled out the world’s most permissive euthanasia regime, in which proposals are now being considered to extend the right to die to the mentally ill, and to so-called ‘mature minors’ — in other words, children.

Though this is often presented as a matter of individual dignity and autonomy, it’s increasingly clear from the Canadian example that in practice it enables something far more squalid: austerity euthanasia. That is, a practice of encouraging expensive chronic or palliative care patients to remove themselves from healthcare spending entirely by ending their own lives.

In Canada, a 2017 report framed this openly as an opportunity, breathlessly detailing the millions that could be saved in healthcare spending by enabling expensive patients to embrace the more cost-effective option of doctor-assisted suicide. Numerous cases have already been reported in which individuals have applied for medical assistance in dying, after an extended period of pleading with the country’s health and welfare bureaucracy for help with disability or distress. The most stomach-churning of these is the latest twist to last week’s story of the slick euthanasia advert I discussed previously, sponsored by a Canadian fashion retailer.

The subject of the glossy promo, Jennyfer Hatch, reportedly didn’t really want to die. Far from this being an empowering tale about a free individual taking her end of life into her own hands, it has emerged that Hatch, who suffered from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, gave an interview earlier this year where she described “falling through the cracks” of Canada’s healthcare system. It appears she opted for doctor-assisted suicide after giving up hope of medical help with her illness.

Rich liberal boomers with plenty of social capital, such as a recently retired fashion retailer CEO, may view euthanasia as a matter of individual freedom. Meanwhile, albeit more quietly, the kind of post-Christian spreadsheet sociopaths who gather in ‘tough choices’ discourse on the liberal Right may view it as a matter of cost savings. Indeed, the 2020 report from Ottawa that described assisted suicide as a ‘boon’ to organ donation, with those choosing doctor-assisted death saving on healthcare spending, may seem less horrific than magnificently efficient.

The rest of us, though, should view these proposals for what they are: a slope so slippery, and ending in such a monstrous place, that we should swerve even the discussion about ‘safeguards’ and ‘ethics’ and simply treat Canada as a cautionary tale.

We’ve already seen a spike in cancer deaths after the pandemic-era call to ‘save the NHS’ by staying home. If you don’t want British palliative care patients under pressure to save even more NHS by self-deleting, I urge you to make your views known to the Commons enquiry’s public survey. It remains my hope that, despite the concealed wishes of government bean-counters, the British people are not yet willing to take this final step into barbarism.

Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.