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New research shows one in four Canadians want euthanasia for the poor and homeless

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A woman holds up a sign during a rally against assisted suicide in 2016 in Ottawa, Canada. Photo: CNS, Art Babych

Twenty per cent of all Canadians think euthanasia should always be allowed, regardless of who requests it, with over a quarter consenting to the expansion of the Canadian scheme to homeless people (28 per cent) and those living in poverty (27 per cent).

The ghoulish statistics gathered by Canadian polling firm ResearchCo show that Canadians are overwhelmingly in favour of their “medical assistance in dying” regime (MAiD) and want to see it expanded to a much wider variety of people, with 74 per cent approving of the current guidelines.

At present, only adults with a grievous and irremediable medical condition can access MAiD, but half of all Canadians would approve of the scheme being extended to people who are unable to receive medical treatment or who are disabled.

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Forty-three per cent believe mental illness should allow a person to euthanise themselves; legislation to temporarily exclude eligibility on the grounds of mental illness alone was passed in Canada earlier this year, but will expire in March 2024.

Canada’s euthanasia scheme has also affected Canadians’ views on whether encouraging or helping a person to commit suicide (ie. outside legal euthanasia schemes) should be a crime, with only 42 per cent believing a person should be prosecuted if they do so.

And nearly a quarter of all Canadians think there should be no punishment at all for “assisting a terminally ill son or daughter to die.”

Only 12 per cent of Canadians think euthanasia should never be permitted.

Writing for Canadian think-tank the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in April, the past president of the Ontario Medical Association, Dr Shawn Watley, said that the view of MAiD as a merciful end to untreatable suffering, “now appears quaint and outdated given current discussions about MAiD for minors, infants, and patients suffering from mental health conditions.”

“Whereas Canadians first understood MAiD as a rare and merciful end, when medicine had nothing left to offer, MAiD is now marketed as a treatment option to manage fear of eventual suffering, to eliminate the pain of loneliness and isolation, and even as a viable option when social needs cannot be met,” Dr Watley wrote.

Since MAiD was legalised in 2016, 31,664 Canadians have ended their lives under the scheme, with 10,064 of them in 2021, a year-on-year increase of nearly a third.

The Canadian Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) noted in 2020 that the MAiD scheme would save the government $149 million in 2020, by reducing the burden of “disproportionately high” healthcare costs in the end of life period, and through expansion of the scheme’s eligibility criteria.

Healthcare costs in the last year of life represent, “between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of total health care costs despite these patients representing about 1 per cent of the population,” the Canadia PBO report said.

“Nevertheless, this report should in no way be interpreted as suggesting that MAiD be used to reduce health care costs.”

Monica Doumit, Director of Public Affairs and Engagement for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, said although MAiD has been legal in Canada for only seven years, it has already had a “drastic impact” on Canadian life.

“Sanctioning the killing of the vulnerable breeds an attitude of indifference to their suffering and an abdication by the individual and the state to care for those most in need,” Ms Doumit said.

“Previously, changes to the law on significant social issues would take generations before they were normalised.

“The rapid speed at which Canadians are accepting this new wave in a culture of death is truly shocking.”

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