Assisted suicide, sometimes called medical assistance in dying, has been increasingly deregulated in Canada over the past several years. The practice is currently available only for adults with severe medical conditions despite recent moves to increase access for minors.
When asked whether assisted suicide should be made available in the case of homelessness, 11% of survey respondents said they “strongly agree,” and 17% said they “moderately agree.” Similar shares believe the same with respect to poverty: 11% of respondents “strongly agree” that destitution can serve as grounds for assisted suicide, while 16% “moderately agree.”
The poll comes as multiple accounts of residents who turn to assisted suicide because of their dire financial straits capture worldwide attention. Amir Farsoud, who receives government assistance for his chronic back pain and was informed that the home he shared with two other people was listed for sale, applied for medical assistance in dying to avoid homelessness and received approval from one physician. Strangers fundraised more than $44,000 online when his story made international news, prompting him to change his mind.
Critics of the procedure argue that governments with socialized medical systems have clear incentives to promote the practice rather than funding treatment for certain patients, thereby overlooking the innate value of human beings and their fundamental right to life.
Nearly half of the respondents also said that mental illness should render one available to receive assisted suicide. Some 16% said they “strongly agree,” while 27% said they “moderately agree,” outweighing the share of respondents who either “moderately disagree” or “strongly disagree.”
Canada indeed implemented amendments to the nation’s criminal code that would increase the availability of assisted suicide such that a citizen with only a “mental illness” can request euthanasia starting next year, whereas the practice was previously limited to people with serious physical illnesses. “You do not need to have a fatal or terminal condition to be eligible for medical assistance in dying,” according to a webpage published by the nation’s government.
Another question on the survey asked whether parents should receive criminal penalties for helping their son or daughter secure assisted suicide. Some 51% favored sanctions ranging from “a fine but no time in prison” to “a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment,” while 24% said they should receive “no penalty at all,” and 25% said they were “not sure.”
Canada does not explicitly allow minors to pursue assisted suicide; the nation’s government, however, has asserted that “children’s decision-making about health care issues occurs within a complicated legal framework.” The doctrine of the “mature minor,” for example, “allows children who are sufficiently mature to make their own treatment decisions.” Laws related to parental consent and “mature minor” status vary between provinces.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, recently announced an expansion in the availability of “life termination” for children between one and twelve years of age. Officials said the new policy only concerns “a small group of terminally ill children” whose “palliative care options are not sufficient to relieve their suffering and who are expected to die in the foreseeable future.”