Euthanasia, where doctors administer drugs to end a patient’s life, is legal in several countries, including Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Spain, as well as some states in Australia.
In contrast, assisted suicide, where patients take the lethal drugs themselves, is legal in some jurisdictions, such as a number of U.S. states.
In Canada, both euthanasia and assisted suicide are referred to as “medical assistance in dying,” with the majority of cases being euthanasia.
Last year, there were over 10,000 deaths by euthanasia in Canada, an increase of around 30% from the previous year, making it one of the leading causes of death in the country.
In the coming year, the country plans to permit euthanasia for individuals solely on the grounds of mental health. Additionally, the possibility of extending the practice to mature minors – those under 18 who meet the criteria for adults – is being considered.
The path toward legalizing euthanasia in Canada began in 2015 when the country’s highest court ruled that prohibiting assisted suicide violated individuals’ dignity and self-determination. This decision prompted government officials to have one year to devise appropriate legislation.
The ensuing 2016 law made both euthanasia and assisted suicide legal for individuals who are 18 years old or older, given that certain conditions are met.
These conditions include having a serious and irreversible medical condition, disease, or disability that is in a state of decline, experiencing “unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated under conditions that patients deem acceptable,” and having a death that is deemed “reasonably foreseeable.” The request for euthanasia must be approved by a minimum of two physicians.
The law was later revised to permit individuals who are not facing imminent death to opt for assisted death, thus expanding the pool of eligible individuals.
Opponents argue that this alteration eliminated a crucial safeguard that was in place to protect individuals with potentially prolonged lifespans.
As a result of this amendment, any adult who is suffering from a serious illness, disease, or disability can now request assistance in dying.
Critics allege that instead of receiving necessary medical attention and care, thousands of individuals suffering from mental illness, disease, poverty, and disabilities are being discriminatorily euthanized.
Many people feel as though they are being compelled to financially support a healthcare system that is not dedicated to promoting their recovery. An example of this is the case of Roger Foley, a man suffering from a degenerative brain disease who was hospitalized in Ontario. During his stay, he was informed by a hospital staff member that maintaining his life in the hospital would cost $1,500 per day, followed by a suggestion of euthanasia.
Some people claim that the term “medical assistance in dying” is a misnomer as it suggests that the use of medicine is somehow justified in ending a person’s life. However, medicine is supposed to save lives, not end them. Furthermore, it is wrong to terminate the lives of people who could have gotten better with proper care instead of being euthanized. We must remember that every life is valuable and should be protected, not ended prematurely.