Not the sole cause, but that number pops out nevertheless. The Canadian government has issued its annual report on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) program for 2019, which appears to have been a banner year. Over 1200 practitioners in medically-assisted suicide performed 5,631 assisted deaths, the vast majority of whom were primary-care physicians (65%) rather than specialists. Oncologists, for instance, only represented 1.7% of all MAID providers, while palliative medicine represented just 9.1%.
It’s this chart, outlining the reasons given by those whose MAID requests were approved and who received an assisted death, that looks shocking. Assisted suicide activists sell this as a means to put an end to needless suffering, but this non-exclusive list of approved reasons for MAID encompasses a lot more than unsolvable pain:
Click on the chart to expand, but read the descriptions carefully. These percentages show that the written requests often contained more than one reason for assisted suicide, which means that one cannot extrapolate a specific number of deaths to one specific complaint. Nevertheless, this list contains a lot of reasons that could be addressed for some improvement. Only a narrow majority (54-56%) cited unmanageable pain, which is what most people have in mind when it comes to suffering that would justify medically assisted suicides.
For instance, the two leading causes cited are rather basic medical issues — loss of ability to engage in “meaningful life activities” (82%) and “activities of daily living” (78%). Needless to say, these are common in some degree to all chronic medical conditions, which is why people go to doctors — specialists in particular — to manage those issues. How many of those cases did the Canadian health system enthusiastically try to alleviate? The fact that 65% of MAID providers are family doctors suggest that those efforts didn’t get much attention from specialists.
The more shocking numbers are those of “perceived burden on family, friends, or caregivers” (34%) and “isolation or loneliness” (13.7%). This suggests that one driving factor behind hundreds of assisted suicides, if not thousands, is the impression that people want them out of the way rather than help support the sick. That’s not just an impression, actually — it’s the reality in Canada’s health-care system. Those numbers should be cause for shame, not for celebrating the success of a government program of any kind.
This is what happens when we take a utilitarian view of life. And it’s only going to get worse, Wesley Smith writes at National Review, both in Canada and in the US:
Alas, most Canadians are proud that their doctors can legally kill sick people whose deaths are “reasonably foreseeable.” Not only that, but the country is now engaged in the process that will expand the conditions qualifying for lethal injection, including incompetent people with dementia if they asked to be put down in an advance directive.
It’s so bad, that in Ontario, if a doctor refuses to euthanize a legally qualified patient or find another doctor he or she knows will kill, they risk professional discipline.
This isn’t just about Canada. The country is our closest cultural cousin. If we swallow the hemlock as our northern cousins have, the same lethal pattern could unfold here.
Indeed it could. We can be at least thankful for the dry transparency of MAID in Canada, and admit that we’ve been warned about the consequences of a throwaway culture when it comes to human life.