Canada’s euthanasia regime is a cautionary tale for the UK
British MPs' enquiry into assisted dying is a dangerous move
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.
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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.
To be clear, there has been very disturbing mission creep in Canada. At least vets seeking support from the Department of Defence were instead offered euthanasia as a solution, including a Paralympian who was asking for a wheelchair lift in her home.
Whether you agree with medically assisted suicide or not, the Canadian govt has offered it to people who didn’t ask for it.
I have nothing but contempt for the Canadian government – especially as they position themselves as a ‘liberal’, caring entity and nothing of course is further from the truth. The Canadian government headed by the Chief Fraud have exposed themselves during the Covid years.
That said, I do agree with their position on offering a way out to people who are suffering….pressure of course is unacceptable but options are oh so welcome. What about chronic pain? Is it ok to consign people to live in chronic pain that isn’t terminal? That is just one argument of many.
Where I live you must google the best way to end your life – jumping off a cliff, shooting yourself, taking pills, hanging yourself and a host of other things that are not foolproof and result in extreme trauma to families, rescue workers and the person in need themselves.
Surely it is OK to offer it as an option? I don’t see a problem here.
Always a tricky subject to deal with, and in theory I’ve no problem with euthanasia. Watching people deal with terminal illness such as cancer is a horrible experience, with the patient becoming ever more sick and frustrated with their life hoping the end would come and family and friends stuck in limbo for months on end, feeling guilty for wishing it was all over. I’ve no qualms about letting people in that situation deciding it’s something they’d rather not go through.
However my only worry is how do you prevent it creeping into something like the Canadian system bumping people off left, right and centre? You need very strict safeguards and I’m not sure they’re always possible to obtain so I’m still undecided on the matter
You do have the option of stopping treatment and only get palliative care (i.e. morphine) which pretty much amounts to the same thing.
It still drags on though unfortunately, and to me if you’re simply going to lay there in a vegetative state doped up to your eyeballs you may as well be dead anyway
Pretty sure that Mary is not existing in a twisted heap of unending pain….
It doesn’t always drag on – my Mum went in 5 days. I was grateful that she couldn’t feel anything.
Same as my grandparents, assisted suicide isn’t aimed at those people though. It’s aimed at those looking at a long drawn out end to their life
No it doesn’t…. It depend on the illness and the stage of the illness.
Not in the US. It’s easier to leave the country for euthanasia than get regular palliative treatment for full-blown hEDS. They send you to psychiatrists for the stimulants and pain killers you need, and then they accuse you of drug seeking, and after the average of 20 specialists you had to see over 20 years to finally get a medical dx, you’re re-diagnosed with a psychological problem because the psychiatrists are too ego-based and uninformed to actually understand your symptoms.
Why can’t doctors simply inform patients of the risks of palliative care, verify the patient has the dx, and let them decide the tradeoffs they’re willing to make? Why is ADDICTION a greater risk than actually ending your own life?
You can’t. As anyone who has experience knows, de facto euthanasia is carried out routinely even in systems where it is de jure forbidden. We’ve all seen DNR notices etc.
But once you formally enable it, rampant scope-creep will occur, as the death culture takes hold.
A DNR means just that, its not to stop treatment. If the person concerned dies then there is no attempt to resuscitate. Resuscitation can and does break bones and cause other serious injury that can make the process of dying much worse.
“However my only worry is how do you prevent it creeping into something like the Canadian system bumping people off left, right and centre?”
Isn’t that always the issue in the end with all of these great decisions? Once the camel’s nose is in the tent, it all goes downhill from there.
This is the creepiest thing I’ve ever read on unherd. Just read what the dolts and simps have to say about government assisted suicide. Would you trust these people? I sure as hell do not.
Dolts and Simps? I’m not familiar with culture war speak so you’ll have to explain to me what that means I’m afraid
Whilst I understand that euthanasia may be seen as humane in some cases, I agree with Ms Harrington that once you allow it at all, you may be on a very slippery slope indeed. Canada is the most appalling example of policy creep so far but it is a similar story in the Netherlands and Belgium. There are some horrendous examples of people being put under pressure to end their lives and I do not trust politicians to not see it as a means of saving money.
I quite agree, those of us who see suffering and instinctively wish to help alleviate it are, I suspect, a minority (although a sizeable one I hope). Governments and bureaucracies tend towards (usually ineptly) efficiencies and political targets, not human dignity or kindness.
Sadly despite the evidence from Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands, the people who want this will not give up. Maybe they are well intentioned, or maybe, as it seems to me, they are somewhat fanatical in their beliefs. No arguments will ever convince me that murder is right, not even those of the murdered.
It is perhaps worth mentioning (in light of other comments) that I am an atheist through and through.
You must believe in something, or have believed in something to believe murder is not right?
Indeed, I believe I would not like to be murdered! What about you?
“I am an atheist through and through.”
I have nothing against atheists, but you should understand that it’s just another belief. You have no evidence for the absence of God.
And you have none for its existence.
I would like to speak up in favor of assisted dying. For some people, perhaps many, life is only meaningful where there is dignity and the possibility of some level of autonomy. A mentally-competent, informed adult should, in my opinion, have the right to choose a peaceful and dignified death if they wish.
It does appear the system in Canada is not sufficiently regulated, and there may, indeed, be pressure placed on some seriously ill people to choose death. It’s not inevitable that all assisted-suicide programs emulate Canada.
Sadly, the Canadian problem appears to result, in part, from application of extreme individualism, and the lack of objective criteria, advocated by the so-called progressives: Everyone should have the right to choose death for whatever reason or no reason. It’s the same line of reasoning that says children are competent to choose gender reassignment surgery.
Mary H has written passionately about her suspicion, perhaps outright rejection, of assisted suicide. For balance, I feel Unherd should commission a short piece in favor of assisted suicide.
Absolutely. I’m up for writing it. I’ve added my short effort in the comments here.
Just because Canada isn’t getting it right at the moment, doesn’t mean this isn’t something worth doing.
If Mary is fundamentally opposed to assisted dying/euthenasia (at it appears she is), it would be far more honest to come out and say so, rather than hiding behind criticisms of Canada.
I think it’s fairly obvious that MH’s views follow from a Catholic position. The slippery slope argument is often used to obscure this fact. Of course, she’s perfectly entitled to her opinion: What I think we should object to is any attempt to foist this on those who disagree with her. Yes, slippery slopes are a worry (and maybe the situation in Canada has not been handled correctly) but there are perfectly satisfactory ways of maintaining a balance whilst allowing people to follow their own path in life and in death
Mary will lose on euthanasia like Catholic conservatives have lost on contraception, abortion, gay marriage and on virtually every progressive social movement.
Lost to who?
Infanticide, even pre-birth is a moral crime. That you get a bunch of Atheist Secular Humanists to legalize it does not mean those against infanticide have lost the moral position.
One of the Reasons achient Rome tore Carthleg to the ground and salted the fields was because they sacrificed babies to the demonic god Ball…The Romans thought this so wicked they did away with the Carthaginian society.
Lose to the inevitable march of human progress. Science deconstructed Christianity. Science gave us the technological wonder of the modern world, it put a man on the moon.
Just walk around your local Church, it’s filled with the old. The Church is dying, Christianity is dying and the world will be a better place when it will be gone.
Yep, read the news, we can see what a better place the world is in 2022 lol
Compared to 1922 yes it is a better place.
Oh yes. We all can’t wait for society to finally rid itself of the Christian heart, so that only the strongest, fiercest and meanest man can take over by force. That will be a thrilling time to be alive for sure. Perhaps we can return to the wonderful days of the Roman, Greek or Assyrian Empires, complete with slavery and the impalement of dissenters.
I’m happy to report you are totally wrong. Christianity is doing just fine – globally.
Your views seem entirely centred on old white Europe and you are correct to say white Europeans have abandoned Christianity and seem to be dying out.
In the areas of the world where they celebrate life and children, Christianity is thriving – there have never been so many of those pesky Christians.
Since the late 1960s, about 8 million British children have been killed in their own mothers’ wombs. Then the British complain about immigration – about the people who come to do the work which would have been done by those British children as adults.
People who reject Christianity don’t replace themselves, it seems.
did away with the Carthaginian society
Otherwise expressed: killed all the Carthaginians.
Gotta get rid of all that wickedness, right?
Not quite true about Carthage. While the Romans did despise the practice of child sacrifice, their destruction of the city was to enable Rome to be the dominating power of the Mediteranean. ‘Carthago delenda est,’ was about that, rather than ending religious practices of which they disapproved,
All examples of the validity of the slippery slope argument.
Agree, And we are all worse off for it.
What are those “perfectly satisfactory ways” that you coyly refer to, but conveniently fail to specify?
And why are such “ways” not working in the countries mentioned?
J, if we need some legal killing law I would rather go with the old
” “needed killing” defense, “Texas defense””
The story is that in a Texas Town without a resident Law Man a horrific town bully was finally shot from behind by some townsman, and everyone was happy, and the defense was that someone just needed to kill him.
I know, tricky to work up into law now days – but that is a law I would back before a ‘I just want someone to kill me’ law. I think some Law School should get a grant and try to figure out how to make it legal – I have seen the need for it.
It was said (in novels at least) that the bad man needed killing.
“That is, a practice of encouraging expensive chronic or palliative care patients to remove themselves from healthcare spending entirely by ending their own lives.”
I’m not totally clear whether Mary is objecting to the encouragement or the more fundamental question of whether patients should be able to make such choices for themselves without encouragement. In using phrases like “slippery slope”, “ending in such a monstrous place” and “sociopaths” it very much sounds like she’s a fundamentalist opponent of people choosing under what circumstances they end their own lives.
But this seems to me a position that simply will not hold much longer in the modern world. We’re probably all aware of elderly people who simply decide they’ve had enough (sometimes shortly after their partner has died) and stop eating and drinking as they either don’t wish to struggle on or feel it’s better for their families (or the health service) if they don’t continue. Such decisions are already taken. They just happen to be legal because these people don’t need to ask for help and were not “encouraged”. If we don’t condemn these people, why should we then single out people who freely and voluntarily wish to make the same choice, but need assistance to do so ?
I do not view any of this as “barbarism”. Nor in fact something being driven by “government bean counters”. It’s usually motivated by the genuine and well-informed wishes of the people involved who view this action as a “social good”. And at an individual case level, many would be a social good.
Of course, this is a very difficult transition to undertake as there are risks of abuse. But the direction in principal seems clear – it is the practicalities holding us back.
It’s better to be honest about the necessarily limited scope of health care and the fact that some more expensive treatments must always be rationed. At some point, an expensive treament for one person is a treatment that cannot be provided for another. Like it or not, health services are in the business of making such tradeoffs. We just prefer not to admit it.
If an individual wishes to freely make an informed decision between dying peacefully at the time of their choice without pain and being a continued drain on health resources, what business do we have to object ? This is more about individual freedom than money (I disagree with Mary’s implication here) – but the money saved could be used for health treatments for other people.
I suspect a substantial part of the opposition to euthenasia is actually about individual freedom – by elites and authorities who wish to deny ordinary people freedom. The usual argument that they “cannot be trusted”, “some decisions are too difficult for ordinary people”. We’ve heard it all before. It’s what they said about Brexit after we voted the “wrong way”.
A very well-argued position. I concur with pretty much all of it.
Allowing people the freedom to end their own life is enhancing freedom.
If enhancing freedom is the main goal here, who gets to decide whose freedom takes priority? Should someone have the freedom to murder someone for disagreeing with them? If not, why not?
While I prefer Mary’s view, your opinion is very respectbale and clearly argumented.
I definitely agree with your point on allocation of exepensive health care, though.
Thoughtful piece with important points made. However the difficulty arises here: “They just happen to be legal because these people don’t need to ask for help and were not “encouraged”. If we don’t condemn these people, why should we then single out people who freely and voluntarily wish to make the same choice, but need assistance to do so ?”
A freely chosen and autonomous act is one thing. To require someone else to carry out the act is quite another.
There are probably four broad groups of people in this debate:
1) Those who support assisted dying in principle and don’t see practical difficulties.
2) Those who support it in principle, but see practical difficulties, but believe these can and will be resolved – though this will be a slow process. The new status quo wouldn’t be perfect, but it would overall be better than where we are today.
3) Those who would support it in principle, but consider it impossible to do in practice (“slippery slope”).
4) Those who oppose it in principle.
I’m in group 2). I couldn’t figure out whether Mary H is a 3) or 4). That frustrated many of us.
I don’t believe that group 1) or group 4) should get to override the wishes of individuals in the other groups (and suspect 2) and 3) are the majority).
I would only permit assisted dying if there are both valid medical reasons and clear and freely given consent (which would need to be sustained over some period of time rather than just one request). Also, no medical professional or private citizen should be forced to participate against their will/conscience. If someone has an incurable and painful illness and wants someone else to benefit from the medical care they would otherwise use, that’s a valid medical reason for me.
I am not arguing for anything more than this. If Canada is going beyond this, I would oppose that – and also view that as unhelpful to making humane and (my view) necessary progress here.
Like all other attempts historically to apply criteria to an altruistic ideal, this would result in abuse of the criteria. As soon as that happens, as in Canada, the ideal collapses into crime and, in this case, eugenics.
I’m a Canadian doc. To my shame I was pro euthanasia when it was being passed back in the mid-teens. In my defence I though it was about allowing docs to be liberal with pain medication in a patient’s last few hours, when the line between “enough medication to avoid horrible suffering” and “enough medication to stop breathing” becomes very blurry.
I did not listen to those who warned me about the slippery slope. They were so right. I was so, so wrong.
Here we are just a few years on with doctor-administered suicide about to be expanded to “emancipated minors” and those with depression and anxiety, as well as handicapped babies.
The patient that Mary mentions had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The area where I practice has a genetic cluster of EDS patients. They have sore joints more often than the average Joe, and they are at risk for early death due to blood vessel abnormalities. But in all ways if you met them they are normal, fully-functioning members of society. They are not people at the end of their life due to a horrible, metastatic cancer. Which is what assisted suicide legislation was purported to be about when it was first promoted.
So we will now off people with sore joints, arthritis, weak hearts, depression, anxiety – you name it. Anything that makes them feel that they can’t handle the difficulties of existence. Anyone who feels like a “useless eater” can now get approved to be offed, with the sanction of society. We are in a scary place. Essentially we have eugenics, we have just come to it in an indirect and gradual way, so that we cannot sense that we are frogs that are now being boiled.
As a Canadian I am stunned by how quickly this has moved through our society. Dignity in death seems like a perfectly moral and logical position, but has quickly devolved into a very dystopian practice. That psychiatrists and psychologists are asking for the brakes to be firmly applied but our Liberal government is forging ahead is all you need to ponder. This really isn’t about dignity at all. It’s about a country with a failed medical system that is scraping the bottom looking for costs savings. I despair what we are becoming.
Remember Abortion . David Steels bill. These would be small in number they would need two doctors to approve it – and it was to help specific circumstances.
In England and Wales alone last year there were 215,000. So if anyone tells you euthanasia will have safeguards – don’t believe it.
I’m with you. The government did not birth you and therefore has no say in the matter as to how you go out. No government can be trusted with this power.
In Ireland, the so-called Dying With Dignity Bill is going through our Parliament with very little opposition and so Ireland, which in recent years has entered a period of uber-liberalism, may legalise assisted dying before the UK does. The debate on the subject is overwhelmingly dominated by the pro-assisted dying side.
This is good news. Progress is inevitable.
Inevitable? Just this week Indonesia’s parliament (which governs a population of 275 million) outlawed sex outside of (heterosexual) marriage.
Afghanistan was also taken over by the Taliban. These minor setbacks will not change the inevitable destination of these nations. The consequences of modernity and urbanisation will eventually transform these societies. Isn’t it interesting that the only nations providing meaningful fight backs against progress are Islamic nations. Christian nations have given up because Christianity is a dying religion.
“The consequences of modernity and urbanisation will eventually transform these societies.”
Im still waiting to see evidence of this in China.
It has already happened. China’s old feudal and religious systems have been swept aside. Women can now choose their own future besides being a wife or concubine. China has embraced progress.
I wonder if part of the rationale for the Indonesian legislation is horror at what is happening in the West with trans ideology and so many broken families. Perhaps they’ve decided to take a stand and not go down the path we have??
Horror? Trans people existing is comparable to millions of women being forced into marriage?
It’s not trans people existing – when I lived in Indonesia in the 80s I was once looking at the Independence Day parade in our local town and one of the groups looked particularly colourful; it was explained to me that they were the prostitutes, some of whom were clearly trans. All OK, in its place. The horror I’m talking about is the breakdown of the family in the West, which may seem linked to gender identity confusion and the detachment of sex from family structure. The legislation may be an attempt to slam on the brakes before they find themselves where we are. But I don’t know, I’m just guessing.
When people are given the choice to choose how they live their lives they form families later and have less children. This is not some apocalyptic breakdown of society that the Christian conservative likes to make out. It is simply progress.
Progress seems to be coming with an awful lot of ‘mental health’ problems. If people have so few children that the society isn’t reproducing itself, that would seem, from an evolutionary biology angle, to be a indicative of a problem. Are we, as a society, choosing extinction? Something’s wrong.
In the past we were distracted by more immediate life or death concerns. Now we have a lot more free time to contemplate the bigger questions of life, and a lot of people cannot handle that. There are pharmaceutical solutions to this problem. This is sadly a side effect of modernity/progress that I am sure we will overcome. We are still learning and adapting.
Absolutely, Mr Pangloss!
The difficulty with your conception of progress is that it doesn’t seem to make anyone happier. On the contrary.
Ah! Progress towards forming families not at all and having no children.
Or is there some agreed and legislated point at which progress stops?
“Women can now choose their own future “
If you’re unable to move around freely, or read freely, or protest, then you’re hardly choosing anything. The feudal system might have been swept aside but the CCP is still there. How long is too long to wait for progress?
What has this to do with the subject under discussion?
There is a kind of “progress” that leads to regress. Just witness all the progressive notions actualized in our society over the decades which have ultimately resulted in far more harm than good. Good intentions which have paved the road to societal hell.
Just wait til the antibiotics stop working altogether, then you’ll see how inevitable ‘progress’ is
Victorian morality will be back before you can say ‘syphilis’.
Progress to what?
Yes – and as with the abortion “debate” in Ireland, it was not a debate at all, just a never-ending parade of pro-death sob-stories.
You conservatives have no argument other than “God said X”. Those kinds of arguments are not accepted in a modern secular society, so yes there were no arguments because you have none that are not religious.
In the final analysis you are correct. If there is no god than objectively speaking anything is permissible, regardless of what you may think.
Just because you despise a Christian’s belief doesn’t make you a king. If you choose to live your life as a rudderless boat, that is your choice. I ask the same favor from you, however. But you can’t. Goodness must be extinguished from your brain in order to eliminate the cognitive dissonance that obviously exists. You seem to wish for a society void of morality, without understanding the repercussions.
I’m a conservative and an agnostic. My opposition to your ideology is based on the reality that it is driven by narcissism, is destructive of families and communities and results in loneliness, class division and poverty.
Nothing to do with God.
After witnessing the ugly authoritarian streak Canadians showed during Covid, and the lying and gaslighting from our health professions that continues until now, I think anything is possible. Maybe like the Nazis in the early 30’s we will start quietly dispatching ‘useless mouths’ in long term care homes and assisted living facilities. When it happens it will be a smiling woman ‘expert’ telling us ‘that it is for their good.’ The CBC will, of course, concur.
It’s a worthwhile analogy. And it’s worth remembering that the same doctors and nurses who were caring for severely disabled children in Germany in 1932 were only a few years later systematically killing them. It takes only a turn of the dial for a comprehensive healthcare system to become a killing machine. Gives a new spin to “from cradle to grave” doesn’t it?
An unusually passionate piece of advocacy from Mary Harrington. There is indeed a fine line that may easily be blurred between decisions made voluntarily to end your life for altruistic or even selfish motives and those effectively forced upon people by deliberate bureaucratic medical neglect.
I failed to detect even a scintilla of a “fine line” in the tone of this article !
I agree, there is a fine line between what we( at least some of us) might accept in principal and how this actually pans out in practice.
There is a very weird thing about the prohibition in taking a life. As far as I can see in the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic religions it is not differing in taking ours or others, as life is a gift or burden given to us. Free will does not mean we have the right to exercise it where ever it does not harm others – this is really the main issue of the ‘Religions of the Book’, that there is sin and good, and most sin is between us and god, not just between us and society as the Modern Liberalism say.
England apparently has their own quiet variant. My wife has an elderly cousin “Betty”, in her late eighties when she experienced a heart attack. She was taken to her local hospital but not admitted. Instead she was given aspirin and told to go home. She was too old to be given any of the care they would have given someone younger. She lived through it and even defended their lack of treatment in a surprisingly stoical fashion I have come to associate with the older English over the years.
It depends what that hospitalised care might have involved. Of course i don’t know the precise details but if, for instance “Betty” had required a coronary artery bypass graft as the only real option to improve matters, the doctors may correctly have made an assessment that she wouldn’t survive the procedure, and therefore it was kinder to not put her through it.
Such circumstances occur in the NHS on a daily basis, involving decisions on whether or not to operate in a range of conditions; plus, hospitalisation itself and the exposure to pathogens may not have been in her best interests.
Yes, but they never even hooked her up to an EKG to find out. The literally did not examine her beyond taking her temperature and blood pressure.
I am pro death penalty, and anti abortion.
As far as legal doctor suicide, that is pretty troubling as I do know a lot will feel under pressure to do it to free up resources – Granny feeling no one cares, but her estate would really help her descendants.
An odd thing is if granny wished to give her half million to the grand kids, or my understanding is – that a large Gift Tax would eat most of it. Kill yourself and the large exemption in inheritance tax lets it pass unencumbered. Just mention as it is an unintended consequence showing more weird sides.
The main thing I have against suicide is my strong agnostic leaning towards Christianity – is that we really do not have the right to end our life – what is our lot we must endure. Sort a Karma thing – if we do hang on it may be our debt karmically; that we cheat by avoiding the harshness. Then who knows what later religious conversion one may have, or what forgiveness one may give or receive later if we serve out our allotted span that life has handed us.
Well done Mary for highlighting the precipice that the country is on the verge of. Just because commenters disagree with your views doesn’t mean that it is “poor” or “lazy” journalism. Something that isn’t being discussed on BBC/Guardian/Telegraph deserves to be on Unherd and I am sure a normal length article would have been better (hard to focus on 4 separate countries). A plea for Mary and other writers please include the public surveys and consultations as you have done in the last of your paragraphs, makes it so much easier rather than sifting through the system oneself.
Those who disagree with Mary, please fill in the survey as well to make your views known to government.
Allowing people the freedom to end their own life is not a “precipice”.
Look at all the countries that legalised it, where they started and where it has gone. No going back for them unfortunately.
The countries that have legalised it are the most peaceful, civilized and prosperous nations on planet Earth.
And that’s the problem – people with a generally positive reputation can more easily get away with monstrous deeds.
Allowing someone to die in pain and agony for the sake of Christian religious doctrine is not monstrous? Euthanasia is compassionate and progressive.
It isn’t freedom if it’s ‘allowed’, is it?
This is the Canadian solution for overpopulation. Step one (not mentioned above) design a healthcare system, tax burden and incompetent government bureaucracy that is so unbelievably awful, you will wish you were dead. Step two, wish granted!
Conservative Christians see no problem with overpopulation. More souls for Jesus.
Several mainstream media articles here in Canada have actually covered the real issue here much better, in my opinion.
The issue isn’t whether assisted dying should be allowed – it’s that there aren’t always better alternatives available.
Generally, I support choice, and would much prefer to have this option in the event that I develop a devastatingly debilitating disease one day – but to have a true choice, we need reliable, high quality supports and treatment options.
What is not clear to me from this article is whether Mary H accepts that there are ANY circumstances where an individual would be justified in seeking assisted death. It seems to me that saying ‘never’ just because she cannot envisage adequate safeguards is unjust, indeed cruel, to those (possibly few, perhaps not) who would be denied euthanasia and condemned to unimaginable suffering.
Canada seems to be a classic example of ‘hard cases make bad law’.
More “hard cases are leveraged to push for bad laws”
The strong advocacy for euthanasia is also pushed by people seeing it as a solution to control pension costs.
Precisely, and an issue like euthanasia cannot be divorced from the broader social context from which it would have to operate. Bluntly, technocratic liberal government does not compute the complex ethical issues around a person’s decision to end their life. The only values it understands are profit, loss and market share.
Reading through some of the comments it seems that many of the concerns are about the people who have to watch someone die and all the anguish that entails. With respect I would argue that the only one of concern in this process is the person dying and if that upsets or makes anyone uncomfortable that is not a valid part of the argument for or against euthanasia. With a good palliative care system in place almost all patients will be kept pain free and will be cared for by professionals leaving their families free to just be with them if that is what they want. Good palliative care needs funding, it needs research into ways of improving, it needs to be part of mainstream medicine with universities having palliative medicine departments and palliative care taught routinely to doctors and nurses. Those countries that have euthanasia legislation tend to have poor palliative care services, having opted for the cheaper option. For those who see no other way but to end their own lives I am sure it is possible to put in place some way of assisted dying that does not incur prosecution or penalty on their families. We will all die and I think that instead of arguing for what others might want we should state what we ourselves want.
Those countries that have euthanasia legislation tend to have poor palliative care services,”
I don’t think Australia has poor palliative care. Nor have I heard in Australia the same sort of problems Canada is having with euthanasia. Just what is it about Canada? Is it all true or more MSM hype?
God Bless you Mary Harrington. This is a monstrous dark fog sliding slowly over our befuddled dangerous political and legal Establishment. I wonder if doctors empowered to kill us will have a different uniform – black, not white. Will they still take a hypocratic oath? So many alarming cases have come to light. The liberal mania for rights which is driving us to a future eugenic catastrophe must be challenged. Any historian of the Holocaust will show a direct link between pre war Nazi State legalising the T4 Euthanasia programme on the disabled and the later horrors that follow from a denial of the sanctity of life.
More Soylent green for everyone!
It seems that exactly what many feared would happen ended up happening. A cheapening in human life.
Giving the people the freedom to choose to end their life is not cheapening human life. It is respecting human life.
Look where playing god has got us. Leg splints, aspirin, antiseptics and antibiotics, heart surgery and all those other ‘interventions’ in the natural order have brought us to the point where we can keep people ‘alive’ in perpetual pain or a zombie-like trance for years. It’s time we respected our Christian roots, went back to Eden, and let god decide when, where, and how our time has come. Innit.
“Spreadsheet sociopath” is right on the nose…thanks again, Mary!
Forty years ago, as a Canadian seminarian I viewed Francis Schaffer of L’Abri fame, predict where abortion is found, euthanasia is sure to follow. I watched Canadian life in those intervening years become nominal, then non- Christian as is happening now in the UK, land of my birth. With the disappearance of a Christian based morality, and with our medical system now on life support after Covid, and with the emergence of life having no meaning, euthanasia is a non topic. We Boomers realize now there will be no heroic efforts to care for us if previous dollars can be saved. After all, it is in the last year of life that an individual costs “ the system” $100,000 on average. Euthanasia is, as the author has said, a cost cutting measure. The UK still has opportunity to learn from the Colonies to value life and seek better non-Canadian solutions.
The fact that we can alleviate suffering and save money is an even stronger argument in favour of euthanasia. I am sorry Boomer, you are not going to live forever, the younger generation is the future.
The younger generation is always the future. But how can you be so sure that they will allow people like you to continue to live? They could create an edict that all people with biblical names should be exterminated. You would have no argument, since you depend on “man” to write the rules.
“and save money”
Is that your philosophy in life? Is that the solution to our problems? In that case maybe you might like to put a price on human life. It seems to be the logical step. So: disabled, how much? Unemployed: how much? Mental health issues, how much? Is a male more valuable than a female? Is a child more valuable than a mother? Is a soldier more valuable than a teacher? Give it a go.
My mum’s partner used Canada’s assisted dying law to end his life when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in Spring 2020 (the fact that it lay undiagnosed then misdiagnosed for two months ‘cos Covid’ is another story). It was intended for people like him but the mission creep of MAID has indeed become truly disturbing.
An unusually poor piece from Mary. There are few treatment options for Ehlers Danlos syndrome. Of course that poor lady didn’t want to die. She probably didn’t want her illness either, but presumably decided that she wanted to avoid living a very difficult life more than she wanted to avoid death.
A right to die a voluntary death with dignity is the epitome of a caring society. I support this completely. Yes, there must be debate and there must be rules.
Rules written by whom, then? Mere men and women? If they rule that anyone over 65 years of age should be exterminated, in order to save resources for the young or to “save the planet” would you support that as well? If not, who gets to decide and why?
Modern medicine can extend life well beyond where nature intended.
That can mean extended and intolerable suffering. There are many places other than Canada that offer what we call in Australia Voluntary Assisted Dying VAD, now legal in most of our states (but strictly limited to people with terminal conditions) . Oregon, Belgium, Switzerland offer different models.
A professional visit to Canada by a colleague who has been a leader in PC here with an expert group uncovered no overt moral concerns of the nature described. (At the time.) The principle should be – decent PC for those who need it, VAD choice for those who find life intolerable. The latter is a subjective matter. Ensuring there is no coercion is the business of the state and the medical profession, and checks and balances to protect the vulnerable can and must be achieved.
It is not barbarism. My late brother suffered an excruciatingly, unnecessarily long death that was prolonged because the option for euthanasia was denied him. What was barbarous was those who insisted on him dying ‘naturally. Euthanasia has to be available under the umbrella of well thought out parameters because it is, in certain circumstances, the merciful approach to death.
Elizabeth, with condolences, I have to assume that your brother had good insurance coverage. For my family members on their deathbed, there was never a choice. The doctors gave us some time to say our goodbyes and that was that. No money, no life support. This was the case of four family members.
I’m appalled at the hysteria about opioid overuse that left many chronic pain patients who’d been managed well being taken off all drugs abruptly because their doctors were terrified of being arrested.
Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is one of the most misdiagnosed conditions with chronic and acute pain that doesn’t show up very much on imaging and also entails full Chronic Fatigue Syndrome–which ironically is now approved as a “disability” by SSDI, except you can’t have CFS if your symptoms are “explained by another condition.” So, EDS isn’t an official disability–and is worse than CFS–but isn’t taken as seriously. Nor can you get the one test available that indicates the post-exertional malaise inherent in CFS.
So, try getting Ritalin and pain meds for your condition–it’s an uphill battle, with the psychiatrists who now oversee it almost always uninformed and eager to re-psychopathologize you or accuse of drug seeking.
Palliative care is an ongoing struggle, and it’s mostly invisible, and it really is easier to go somewhere to be officially killed than to simply manage your condition, because somehow “ADDICTION!!!!” is a greater risk than dying. I guess they think hEDS patients are going to sell drugs to school children, instead of just die. The opioid crisis is that diagnosed patients aren’t allowed to manage their own pain. And the drugs are dirt cheap.
At least Kratom is still legal, though pharma keeps fighting it, since they can’t patent a plant that’s been around for a few thousand years. There is not a single death on record due to Kratom (it’s only been in the systems of people with other drugs in their systems as well), but the busy bodies keep going after it too, while leaving alcohol alone.
Palliative care is actually pretty comparatively inexpensive–but no, we can’t have that. The EXPENSE is the point. They’re not trying to save money. They’re trying to save a profitable industry from losing profits from patients who are actually legally able to manage their own care using generic meds. Better to kill those examples than allow them to live functional lives and demonstrate that they could actually have 5 or 10 more decent years w/o spending a fortune on psychiatrists bills and newly patented meds.
Canada has been a centre for industrial, financial, cultural and any form of achievement euthanasia since its creation?!!!!
The slippery slope or the thin end of the wedge. Either way an immutable proposition.
You can tell yourself what you like but as soon as you cross the threshold you are done
I find all these fears somewhat over the top. We now have assisted suicide in New Zealand but only with strict conditions and there has certainly not been a lemming-like rush to knock off Granny. To look at it another way, I am a veterinarian of many years and I euthanize many patients over the years. The number of people who want to euthanize animals that don’t need it I can count on one hand-and have always refused to do so. I would be struck off for negligence (for allowing undue pain and suffering) if I refused to euthanize many of the sick, suffering animals I have seen with no hope, whereas many humans are forced to suffer far worse and have no recourse. In virtually every case pet owners get their animals euthanized out of compassion and not wanting to see them suffer or live an undignified life. To compare the situation of animals with people, it appears as blatant cruelty the way terminally sick people are treated. Yes, the conditions need to be strictly controlled and mistakes may well be made (when aren’t they in life?) but in my opinion it is ridiculously arrogant, perverse and cruel to go against the vast majority of dying patient’s wishes, and let them suffer (with no hope) for the sake of a few suspect cases. As vets often say to each other “We would never treat animals this badly”.
‘I might be gone some time’.
‘Come back, you can’t lay down your life so that others might live. It isn’t in the Christian spirit.’
The Bible Thumpers believe that people should be forced to live their life even if they have to endure unbearable amounts of suffering. Yet again the conservative Christian shows that they care more for theology than basic common sense and compassion. Euthanasia is decent, moral and compassionate. It’s legalisation is inevitable and just like all the other battles for progress the conservative reactionary will lose.
the ” Try and name a famous Canadian” joke outdoes the ” famous Belgian”? At least Dom Perignon, Jacky Ickx, Eddie Merckx, and some singer or other were Belgian….errr… lets have a think…. errr…. the babe off Baywatch… and… mmm…
Weird, and irrelevant, comment. Actually there are loads of famous, particularly entertainers, Canadians. It is just that most people assume they are American.
Ryan Gosling, The Rock, Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Kiefer Sutherland, Keanu Reeves etc etc.
A safeguard … if allowed, doctor assisted suicide would legally mandate that the deceased’ will is revoked and their entire estate forfeited to their favourite charity.
Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium and Spain have voluntary euthanasia – to differing extents.
Why focus on Canada? Because it is relatively new to Canada? A lazy piece of journalism.
When a piece in its first sentence refers to ‘the horror stories pouring out of Canada’ you know you’re not in for a balanced read. It’s precisely because of this alarmist approach that we need an inquiry where claims can be scrutinised. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, puts it rather well in his recent letter to the Church Times: “Concerns about other countries’ assisted-dying legislation are not reasons for the UK to do nothing and maintain a dangerous and unpopular status quo. They are reasons to ensure that we get our own laws right, with strict eligibility criteria, safeguards, and transparency at their core.”
But Mary’s theological opinions decide things I am sure. Jesus wants you to suffer, it’s his will.
It’s true. If you were dying of a terminal disease that left you in unbearable pain Mary and her fellow Christian fundamentalists would let you suffer. To allow you the choice to end your life would be a violation of Church doctrine. Jesus wants you to suffer.
Hardly. There’s an entire medical specialty devoted to palliative care.
What the f##k do you know about Mary’s mind or about Jesus, you snarling atheist bigot?
Yea, but Cary is like Welby – converted more people to atheism than the other way by a factor of 100 at least, with his Liberal Lefty Woke craziness.
” we need an inquiry”
I guess you should have your own inquiry, but in Australia all of the state parliaments had recent inquiries which produced substantial reports, before all going on to pass Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation. So, a lot of the work has already been done.
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