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‘Assisted suicide is cheaper than caring’

Assisted Suicide
5 January 2022
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Canada’s euthanasia law is “morally bankrupt” as it offers death as a cheap solution to suffering whilst denying people more expensive care and treatment, a leading psychiatrist has said.

Dr John Maher, a practising psychiatrist and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Ethics in Mental Health, warns Canadians feel compelled to opt for ‘assisted death’ because they can’t access the support they need.

The medic identifies three groups who face injustice under the country’s Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) legislation: people with terminal illnesses, people with disabilities and people with mental health conditions.

Discussing terminal prognoses, Dr Maher notes that “people are now dying by MAID who could have lived longer, and very comfortably, if only palliative care were available". He states: "Only 30 per cent of Canadians have access to basic palliative care and fewer than 15 per cent have access to specialist palliative care”.

Noting discrimination faced by disabled people, he adds: “Some Canadians with disabilities are now pressured within a stigmatized system to choose MAID when they could live decades longer if only disability supports were universally funded.”

And commenting on a forthcoming change in the law to allow people with mental health conditions to access assisted suicide, he asks: "How do you offer death when it is impossible to know if someone will get better and live a long life without further suffering? Disturbingly, only one in three Canadians who need mental-health care have access to it. So, we offer death while treatment is denied. Facilitated suicide by another name.

Dr Maher concludes: “Our ‘progressive’ laws now have the paradoxical effect of depriving a multitude of people of decades of life. My right to life as guaranteed in the Charter of Rights is contravened by a government that won’t provide universal palliative care, disability supports or mental health care. And we know why. It’s cheaper. It’s also morally bankrupt.”

In the UK, campaigners are urging politicians not to legalise assisted suicide because of the dangers a change in the law poses to vulnerable groups. A submission to a recent consultation on assisted suicide legislation brought forward by Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur by CARE states:

“The proposed Bill would send a negative message to those with a terminal illness, and arguably to people with other illness or disabilities, that certain lives are no longer worth living. Assisted suicide, by definition, sends a clear signal that certain lives are no longer worth living. It is also individuals in these categories who are most likely to feel pressurised into considering assisted dying. In the absence of the Bill, such pressure would not exist.”

You can read our full submission here: CARE submission

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Assisted Suicide

Where assisted suicide is legal, it makes vulnerable people feel like a burden. CARE works to uphold laws that protect those people, and to assist them to live—not to commit suicide.

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