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Should we assist or prevent the suicide of an elderly woman with a terminal illness and dementia?

What about this man with a serious disability but no terminal illness?

What about this teen with depression?

Are some people more valuable than others?

Is it really fair

 to offer assisted suicide to some but not all? How can we decide who recieves assisted suicide or "medical assistance in dying" and who gets suicide prevention or supportive care?

Disability rights advocate

 Liz Carr points out: "When non-disabled people talk of suicide, they're discouraged and offered prevention... When a disabled person talks about it, though, suddenly the conversation is overtaken with words like 'choice', and 'autonomy'... while talk of prevention and mental health support are rare." 

Treating everyone equally

 means offering suicide prevention and supportive care for everyone. It means we go to all lengths to prevent the able-bodied young adult’s suicide and the elderly disabled person’s suicide alike, by providing the appropriate supportive care – medical, emotional, and spiritual.

Suicide prevention is a human right. 

Suicide is always a human tragedy.

Do you think people should be treated equally?

Aren’t you splitting Canadians into two groups?

 Those whose suicides you would assist
and those you would try to prevent?
When do we switch

 from offering someone supportive care (medical treatment, counselling, psychiatric care, pain management, palliative care, etc.) to assisted suicide? When do we give up on those who are suicidal?

Offering Support

 but not assisted death to most people but offering assisted death to others like the very old, sick, or disabled is based on the belief that the latter’s lives are no longer worth living. 

The desire to die may change,

 and can be alleviated through various kinds of medical, social, and spiritual support.

It is discriminatory

 (ageist and ableist) to give supportive care and suicide prevention continually to some, like the young or non-disabled, but offer assisted suicide to others.


If assisted suicide were really about choice, we would offer it to all Canadians - not only the old, disabled, or severely ill.
But we don’t, and we shouldn’t.

Being suicidal is always a 

symptom of an unmet need.

Should we ever prevent suicide?

Should we offer suicide prevention hotlines to Canadians?
Is suicide a tragedy or just another personal choice?
Am I a burden? 

As assisted suicide becomes normalized, those who are sick, disabled, or elderly may begin to feel like a burden, and other people are more likely to view them as such. After all, if other people in your dependent condition are ending their lives with government approval, why are you staying alive and using up so much medical and human resources?

Suicidal Thoughts? 


When a person shares that she has suicidal thoughts, she is signaling that she needs help. That’s true for the elderly and those with illnesses too. We can help people by visiting them, connecting personally, deepening the relationship, and finding out their unmet needs. 


As a society, we need to promote supportive care and suicide prevention for all.
Suicide is always a tragedy, even if done via lethal injection by a doctor.

Assisted Suicide Encourages Neglect

What message does MAiD send?

Assisted suicide or “MAiD” teaches people to support their family member or friend’s wish to die, rather than to support their life by fulfilling unmet needs and helping them find meaning. MAiD is antithetical to serving someone in life-affirming, dignity-affirming, personhood-affirming ways.

 MAiD is the opposite of health care 

MAiD is the government’s way OUT of providing the care you really need. Offering assisted suicide as a “cure” reduces incentives to invest in and improve life-affirming treatments – everything from new cures to new pain medications to new palliative methods. It’s no wonder assisted suicide has always been contrary to the Hippocratic Oath and basic medical ethics.


"If one chooses to die in the absence of appropriate pain control or the necessities of a restricted life, then the failure is ours."
 - Dr. Tom Koch
(Medical Ethicist)

Parliament is looking to expand assisted suicide.

Common reasons for supporting assisted suicide

- and why they're misguided

#1

Low Quality of Life


Quality of life cannot be objectively measured and defined. When we try to decide who gets assisted suicide based on quality of life criteria, we end up dividing people into arbitrary groups. Also, people with a severe illness or disability often face "quality of life" challenges because of poverty, discrimination, lack of access to needed treatments, and public policies that favour institutional over home-based care, among other causes.

#2


Unbearable suffering

When someone wants to die, it is always because they find their suffering – mental and/or physical – unbearable. So, we are left with a choice between offering assisted suicide to all who are suicidal (whose suffering makes them wish to die) or trying to alleviate suffering in some way, which may take time, effort, innovation, and self-giving.

#3


Incurable condition or illness

Offering assisted suicide to people with incurable conditions reduces incentives to find cures or treatments. It also robs people of the chance to benefit from new treatments that may be discovered later. But more importantly, it sends a message that people with incurable conditions are less deserving of continued care and support. A good life doesn’t require being totally “cured”. There is a choice besides cure everything completely and assisted suicide – namely, help the person adjust, adapt, and live well.

#4


Terminal Illness

Isn’t a person’s time more valuable the less of it they have left? Wouldn’t you spend more time with a friend or family member who has a terminal illness? As for the hardships particular to the hours and moments before natural death, doctors have developed effective means to relieve suffering and calm patients during this time, without killing them. Government should improve access to palliative care rather than promote assisted suicide.

The more you're suffering, the more you deserve: 

assisted suicide

supportive care!

What do I say?

Some talking points:

#1

Treating everyone equally, without ableism or ageism, means offering suicide prevention and supportive care for everyone.

#2

The wish to die is always a symptom of an unmet need. Our response should be to discover and to meet unmet needs, not to give in to the desire to die.

#3

Expanding assisted suicide encourages a culture of neglect for suffering, elderly, disabled, and other vulnerable people and devalues their lives.


Canada needs to promote suicide prevention and life-affirming care for all.
We should not accept some suicides as rational choices worth supporting and others as tragedies to prevent.

Parliament is looking to expand assisted suicide.

Your MP needs to hear from you!

Here's what you can do:

What Experts are Saying

“In our opposition to legislative amendments that would permit medical assistance to end one’s own life, disabled citizens are seeking to advance a vital truth, one that is imperative for our fellow citizens to embrace as well. Our physical and cognitive powers are not the source of human dignity. As these powers attenuate, human life does not lose its inherent value.”

Catherine Frazee

 former Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Professor Emerita at the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University

“I fear we’ve so devalued certain groups of people – ill people, disabled people, older people – that I don’t think it’s in their best interests to enshrine in law the right of doctors to kill certain people."

Liz Carr

 Disability Rights Advocate 

“Living with a disability is not worse than death. People who are misled into believing it will be should not be offered public support to kill themselves.”

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities and Canadian Association for Community Living

“I worry that people fear dependency. The act of dying by definition is a time when we become dependent on others, and I think it’s much more important that we develop ways to support people through that dependency... than seeking to quickly dispose of that time.”

Jessica Simon

 Head of Palliative Care Medicine at the University of Calgary 

“I think there are communities that have this issue [suicide] and if you allow, all of a sudden, [assisted suicide] to occur, it might be very difficult. If grandma, grandfather decides they had enough in life, if they weren’t able to carry on, why should I carry on? If they weren’t strong enough, why should I be strong enough? I think that is a question that is asked in Attawapiskat more often than not…”

Robert-Falcon-Ouellette

 Veteran, Professor, and former Member of Parliament 

“Society needs to encourage opening our hearts to those who are weaker and more fragile. There’s something in society that’s going wrong when we’re thinking all the time that people have to be perfectly independent or perfectly strong, when in reality, my God, we need each other, we need help.”

Jean Vanier

 Founder of L’Arche Communities for people with disabilities

“At the heart of this debate, we must choose between competing visions of our social fabric. Shall we uncritically submit to the voracious demands of individual liberty no matter what the social cost? Or shall we agree that there are limits to individual freedom, limits that serve all of us when we are vulnerable and in decline? Let us seize this moment in our nation’s history to affirm that all states of living are inherently dignified and worthy of our utmost respect.”

Catherine Frazee

 former Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Professor Emerita at the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University 

“Suicide was not easily condoned in any nation, and we do not want a society to think that suicide is always an option. We certainly do not want others encouraging others to end their lives.”

Murray Sinclair

 Senator and former judge 

“[There is benefit to] working out that sense of ‘I am a burden on my family and society’ to ‘I am worth being cared for by my family and society, and I am loved’. Making that shift at the core of people’s being is profound, it’s huge, and it doesn’t end up being able to happen as a result of MAiD.”

Phillip Murray

 Hospital Chaplain at Providence Health Care 

“When non-disabled people talk of suicide, they’re discouraged and offered prevention. …When a disabled person talks about it, though, suddenly the conversation is overtaken with words like ‘choice’ and ‘autonomy’ … while talk of prevention and mental health support are rare.”

Liz Carr

 Disability Rights Advocate 

“MAiD is not part of hospice palliative care… Hospice palliative care and MAiD substantially differ in multiple areas including in philosophy, intention and approach.”

Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians and Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association

“I think [MAiD is] a cheap solution for the government who doesn’t want to invest in healthcare.”

Dr. Paul Saba

 Physician, head of Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice 

“If one chooses to die in the absence of appropriate pain control or the necessities of a restricted life, then the failure is ours. … It is not paternalism to question the choices of those who may be discouraged, or afraid, of a life they think cannot change. Fear of a different future shouldn’t be a reason for medically assisted death today. In such cases it is, or should be, our obligation to promote that life’s continuance through clinical and social assistance.”

Dr. Tom Koch

 Gerontologist and medical ethicist specializing in chronic and palliative care.

“My vocation, training and oath all aim to relieve suffering and help people find meaning and purpose. … We can’t have it both ways: suicide prevention and facilitation are fundamentally incompatible moral and pragmatic positions.”

Dr. John Maher

 Psychiatrist specializing in severe mental illness and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Ethics in Mental Health.