What happens when government-run health care and a cultural embrace of euthanasia meet? Just ask Roger Foley, a Canadian man with a debilitating chronic neurological disease. After being hospitalized with cerebellar ataxia for a lengthy period, Foley wanted to arrange for home care so he could live in his own place — care that should be covered under Canada’s government-run system. Instead, in at least two conversations recorded by Foley, officials pressed him to choose assisted suicide, as CTV reported last week:
An “awkward conversation,” indeed. Catholic News Agency picked up the story today and describes the recordings:
In the first recording from September 2017, a medical worker is heard telling Foley that he will be charged some $1,500 a day if he stays at the hospital.
Foley labels the attempt as illegal coercion and says his preferences have already been violated. He asks what the plan is for him moving forward.
“Roger, this is not my show,” the man responds. “I told you my piece of this was to talk to you about if you had interest in assisted dying.”
In the other audio recording, reportedly from January 2018, a medical worker is heard asking Foley if he would like to pursue assisted suicide and whether he has had thoughts of self-harm. Foley says he feels like he wants to end his life because of his experience at the hospital, but that if he were given self-directed home care, he would “be fine.”
“You can just apply to get assisted, if you wanted to end your life, you know what I mean?” the medical worker says. “You don’t have to do it in some dramatic manner, you can just apply.”
“Well, they already presented the outcome option to me, but it’s like, Why force me to end my life?” says Foley.
Foley decided to file a lawsuit to force the issue out into the open. He also claimed that he nearly died under circumstances he’s not quite ready to reveal:
In a statement to CTV News, Foley says he decided to release the recordings “to all Canadians as my situation got very bad recently where I almost died.”
He says he’s “not in a position to elaborate on that currently,” but he wants the public to know “the real truth before it is too late for my voice to be heard.”
“It is the real truth of what is going on in Canada regarding so many assisted deaths without appropriate safeguards, in combination with the lack of necessary care that is not being provided to persons who are suffering,” he says in the statement.
“I have not received the care that I need to relieve my suffering and have only been offered assisted dying. I have many severe disabilities and I am fully dependent. With the remaining time I have left, I want to live with dignity and live as independently as possible.”
The news anchors are aghast at these audio recordings, saying that safeguards are supposed to exist to prevent “external pressure” being applied for euthanasia. However, it’s foolish to think that governments that have to supply resources for extended care won’t respond to the obvious incentives in play where euthanasia (or “assisted suicide,” the preferred euphemism of its advocates) exists as an option.
In a rationed-care system, as all single-payer systems are, the rationing will take aim at those who need the most utilization while having the poorest prognoses — and with euthanasia as an option and the power of the state behind it, the incentives to save money are all in favor of convincing the infirm to speed up their deaths. One has to wonder how many Canadians have already taken the offer and committed suicide under pressure. Don’t think for a moment that Foley’s the first patient to be confronted over his will to live.
Some will point out that private-sector insurers also act to limit outlays, and that’s true. However, they also compete against each other, and that competition provides incentives for consumers that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Furthermore, those systems leave government as a disinterested regulator to punish abuses such as these; instead, socialized medicine has no effective regulator, and no one to prevent and punish abuses, even in democratic systems, as we have seen in our own VA.
Government-run medicine and euthanasia are bad in their own rights, but in combination make for a grotesque tyranny. The better method of prevention is to keep either from being established, let alone both together. The best method would be to remove third-party payers from most medicine, leaving insurance in its traditional role as indemnification against unforeseen calamities, which leaves consumers and providers in charge of medical decisions. That’s something to keep in mind when politicians demand “Medicare for All” as “reform.”