Critics of euthanasia are sounding the alarm about Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, where assisted suicides are increasingly accessible to people who need help, not lethal injections.
The warning comes on the heels of revelations that the Netherlands is euthanizing healthy people with autism, and as Australian authorities debate whether to allow children as young as 14 to end their lives in the nation’s capital.
In Canada, with the most permissive assisted suicide program in the world, a quadriplegic woman said she is considering euthanasia because it is easier to obtain than disability benefits.
Matt Vallière, director of the Patients’ Rights Action Fund, a campaign group, said most Western governments that allow assisted suicide send the message that “people with certain disabilities are better off dead.”
Rose Finlay, 33, a quadriplegic in Canada, says it’s easier to get euthanasia than disability support payments
Euthanasia is legal in seven countries: Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain, as well as several states in Australia.
“Each expansion of assisted suicide and euthanasia simply adds additional subsets of people with disabilities to the pool of those who qualify or makes it easier, faster or cheaper to obtain them,” Vallière told DailyMail.com.
People who need support are sent to a “utilitarian funnel of death”, he added.
Euthanasia, a lethal injection administered by a doctor, is legal in seven countries: Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain, as well as several states in Australia.
Other jurisdictions, including a growing number of US states, allow physician-assisted suicide, where patients take the drug themselves, usually by crushing and drinking a lethal dose of pills prescribed by a doctor.
Irene Tuffrey-Wijne, from Kingston University in Great Britain
The number of people who opt for assisted suicide has steadily increased in countries where it is allowed.
Canada registered more than 10,000 cases in 2021, the latest year for which official data is available, followed by the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States.
The Netherlands in 2002 became the first country in the world to allow doctors to kill patients, at their request, if strict conditions were met.
Almost 60,000 opted for the procedure between 2012 and 2021, official figures show.
The country’s program came under scrutiny this week with revelations that several people with autism and intellectual disabilities had been legally euthanized in recent years because they said they could not lead normal lives.
The cases included five people under the age of 30 who cited autism as the sole reason or as a major contributing factor for euthanasia, stretching the boundaries of what the law originally intended.
Irene Tuffrey-Wijne, of Britain’s Kingston University, and her colleagues reviewed Dutch files on euthanasia requests for people with autism or lifelong mental disabilities and published their findings in the journal BJPsych Open.
Many of the patients cited different combinations of mental problems, physical ailments, illnesses, or aging as reasons for requesting euthanasia.
Some said they were lonely, in a lot of pain, or felt isolated.
“I have no doubt that these people were suffering,” Tuffrey-Wijne said. ‘But is society really okay with sending this message, that there is no other way to help them, and that it is better to be dead?’
Rose Finlay’s social media post has reignited concerns about how Canada’s trajectory towards euthanasia free-for-all
Lily Thai, a 23-year-old suffering from a rare autoimmune disease, ended her life with a lethal injection last month in Australia.
Meanwhile, in Australia, new legislation could allow children as young as 14 to receive voluntary assisted dying in the region that includes Canberra, the country’s capital.
Area Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne, who backs the plan, says children should have the same choices as adults about how to end their lives.
“Young people under the age of 18 can also experience intolerable suffering at the end of life due to terminal illnesses,” Cheyne said.
In recent days, the country has been affected by the case of Lily Thai, a 23-year-old girl who suffered from a rare autoimmune disease who ended her life last month with a lethal injection.
Since the age of 17, Lily’s debilitating illnesses had affected her quality of life, leaving her bedridden and unable to move.
“It’s gotten to the point where I’ve lost control of everything else in my life,” he told the Adelaide Advertiser before taking the fatal blow.
“I have depended on my father as a caregiver to do everything for me, even the most intimate things.”
Canada has been affected by its own local case.
An Ontario quadriplegic woman has strongly criticized her government, saying it would be faster for her to be euthanized than for the state to provide disability support services.
Mother of two, Rose Finlay, 33, shared a video on TikTok explaining her decision and accusing health chiefs of failing to meet the needs of disabled people in the province.
His spinal cord was damaged when he was 17 years old.
She used to support herself and her family, but increasing illnesses have left her unable to work.
Matt Vallière (left), executive director of the Patients’ Rights Action Fund, and Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, say procedures are out of control
Canada is on track to record some 13,500 physician-assisted suicides by 2022
In his widely shared post, he says he feels like “absolute garbage” and that his kidney pain, fever, chills, headaches, muscle spasms and nausea are getting worse.
Red tape means it can take up to eight months to get the disability support money you need.
That, he says, is longer than the 90 days it takes to qualify for the country’s medical assistance in dying (MAiD) plan.
“There is a huge and damaging discrepancy in the supports that are available to disabled Ontarians,” Finlay said in the video.
In a more recent Instagram post, he says he hasn’t yet decided whether to end his life.
She calls for ‘more people to help create change for disabled Canadians by holding our politicians accountable for fixing the broken system.’
Alex Schadenberg, head of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Canada, a campaign group, called it a case of “abandonment.”
“She can die from MAiD in 90 days, but is forced to live in total poverty for six to eight months while she waits for disability benefits to be approved,” Schadenberg told DailyMail.com.
Many Canadians support euthanasia, and campaign group Dying With Dignity says the procedures are “driven by compassion, an end to suffering and discrimination and a desire for personal autonomy.”
Critics say the country’s regulations lack necessary safeguards, devalue the lives of disabled people and lead doctors and health workers to suggest the procedure to those who might not otherwise consider it.
The country is on track to record some 13,500 state-sanctioned suicides in 2022, an increase of 34 percent from 10,064 in 2021, according to Schadenberg’s analysis of official data.
Politicians in Canada are currently considering whether to expand access to MAiD to include children and the mentally ill.
Canadians are largely behind euthanasia policy, polls show. A poll published in May showed that more than a quarter of voters said the poor and homeless should be allowed to end their lives with MAiD.
“As soon as it becomes legal, there will always be people who are experiencing some kind of suffering who will argue that euthanasia should apply to them as well,” Schadenberg said.
“This is not a slippery slope argument, but it is a logical extension of the law.”
Vallière echoed his concerns.
“The vulnerable, disabled, economically disadvantaged and minorities are driven to choose death because medical suicide has become the least of the health evils to which they have access,” he said.