In March 2023, Canada will begin assisting the mentally ill by terminating their lives. Canada first legalized medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in 2016. Bill C-7 in 2021 expanded the criteria for MAiD beyond those who had a foreseeable death. Now, a further expansion will allow those with mental illness to receive a prescription for death.
The slope is not only slippery—the ground below MAiD collapsed into the pit of the earth. We should expect the requests of parents to end their children’s lives to soon be granted. We will not have post-birth abortion; we will have parents requesting to have their children receive the care given by medical assistance in dying. Lest I be accused of exaggeration, Quebec’s college of physicians has already (in 2021) recommended euthanizing infants and teenagers.
The euphemism “medical assistance in dying” means a medical professional will administer drugs that end the life of a patient. In traditional language, MAiD is euthanasia. And it’s the new normal in Canada.
The stories of people applying for MAiD in combination with the sympathetic reception of MAiD among Canadians will force Canadian Christians into conflict because any attempt to save someone’s life will invoke the ire of those who call death good and preserving life wrong.
Stories of MAiD
In a Toronto, a woman with an incurable sensitivity to chemicals used in housing has applied for MAiD. The woman, Denise, cannot afford to find housing without the chemicals that destroy her life. She may qualify for MAiD due to this incurable sensitivity, but her poverty means she has yet to find long-term affordable housing to preserve her health.
MAiD will force Canadian Christians into conflict because any attempt to save someone’s life will invoke the ire of those who call death good and preserving life wrong.
Denise has found “a temporary home” in a hotel, CTV News reports. Yet she has “not cancelled the MAID application.” Denise can’t live there forever; she may have to return to her apartment where she struggles to breathe.
A man in St. Catharines, Ontario, has also applied for MAiD because he suffers from depression, anxiety, and the real fear he might become homeless. Amir Farsoud explains, “I do nothing other than manage pain.” The fear of living with such mental anguish without affordable housing has driven him to the edge. “I don’t want to die but I don’t want to be homeless more than I don’t want to die.”
Homelessness doesn’t qualify someone for MAiD. But Farsoud may soon qualify on mental health grounds due to his ongoing anguish. Erin Anderssen explains, “On March 17, assisted dying will become legal for Canadians with a mental disorder as their sole condition.” Yet Farsoud doesn’t necessarily need the March update to MAiD. One of his doctors has already approved his application to MAiD due to his physical suffering, which is “intolerable and cannot be relieved.”
Julie Leblanc suffers from near-lifelong mental illness. She has an 8-year old son who plays a role in her will to live. Yet she “wavers between wanting to die and trying to live. . . . She feels trapped in despair and anxiety, while carrying the deepest sorrow of all—her illness prevents her from being a good mother to her son.”
Leblanc fears taking her own life because of the pain and the consequences of a failed attempt. MAiD tempts her since it promises a peaceful end. Soon, “Canada will have one of the most liberal euthanasia laws in the world” and Leblanc may be able to receive a death prescription.
Will someone who calls this desire wrong and encourages another person to choose life become a cultural evil? I suspect so.
Culture of MAiD
MAiD has already become culturally normalized and lionized. In 2016, about 1,000 people died by MAiD. In 2021, that number was over 10,000. Death is becoming mainstream.
Social media continues to popularize death. One TikTok user’s viral lip sync video says in a caption, “When you have such severe treatment resistant d3pression, that even your doctors suggest MAID.” Gino Florio laments, “There are almost 2,500 comments and the scary part is, many people are either agreeing with her or encouraging her to participate in MAiD.”
One user commented, “I’m applying for maid as soon as I turn 18” and another person replied, “me 2.” Another person wrote, “wish I had access to this tbh” and someone else said, “It’s okay to want to consider it. It’s okay to have all manner of thoughts. This is purely about you. Sending you support whichever path you choose.”
Moral norms and expectations flow downstream of law, and now they flow downstream of the digital swarm.
The Canadian retailer Simons has created an “inspirational” short film that associates its brand with the freedom of death. Its CEO, Peter Simons speaks of the film All Is Beauty as a celebration of “hard beauty.” That a big-name retailer assumes advocating for death will be a good use of what Simons calls its “privilege” is telling.
What might be even more telling is that the woman featured in the Simons short film didn’t want to die. Jennyfer Hatch suffered immensely in life. British Columbia’s healthcare system failed to provide palliative care. Rather than a beautiful exit, as Simons had described it, Hatch suffered immensely, was unable to get the care she needed, and felt forced to die.
Hatch, using a pseudonym, explained, “I thought, ‘Goodness, I feel like I’m falling through the cracks so if I’m not able to access health care am I then able to access death care?’ And that’s what led me to look into MAID and I applied last year.”
Death by MAiD is good for the organ business. One newspaper reported on the “boon to organ donation” due to the success of MAiD. Those who advocate against MAiD will now be seen as depriving patients who need organ transplants.
On March 17, assisted dying will become legal for Canadians with a mental disorder as their sole condition.
Recently, The United Church even released a prayer for those who choose to die by prescription. The prayer encouragers the one who will die to admit, “I am afraid to die. I do not know what lies beyond the barrier of death. I am afraid to release myself to the great unknown.” But this liturgical prayer which speaks of “the great unknown” also says, “I hope they will be proud of my decision and will understand that MAID is consistent with the love and compassion of Jesus.”
To claim the United Church here errs (an understatement in my estimation) will place Christians in the middle of the culture war of TikTok, Simons ads, organ donation, and the euphemistic language of medical assistance in dying. The bioethics of euthanasia will be extremely important for Christians in the years to come as any kind of suffering may qualify the sufferer for MAiD.
Saving Lives Makes Enemies
The world will say to Christians, “Why are you so cruel to keep this person from medical care? Has she not suffered enough? Is your God so cruel as to let someone suffer unbearably?”
And we’ll have to say something. We’ll have to say our God took on flesh and blood in order to taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:9, 14). It was his suffering that made him perfect (Heb. 2:10), and it was his death that destroyed the Devil’s power, which is the fear of death (Heb. 2:15). The last enemy, death, has been defeated.
But death is still the enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). Death has yet to be cast deep into the lake of fire at the end of all things (Rev. 20:14). As Christians, we hate death’s far-reaching effects because God is the Creator of life. And Christ is our life.
The proclamation of the gospel challenges aspects of MAiD. So does basic truth telling. MAiD ends lives. MAiD is euthanasia. MAiD preys on the suffering and weak. MAiD exploits the poor who apply for death on the basis of acute suffering to which their neighbors have turned a blind eye.
The moral consensus that Canadians—both Christian and non-Christian—once shared has slowly eroded. In its place, Christians stand on morals and ethics that are offensive to a world that celebrates death.
By speaking out, we may provoke the ire of the world around us. But we cannot falter. Lives depend on it.
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