In Canada, it is easier for the disabled to get approval for assisted suicide than approval for affordable housing. The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates taxpayers will save millions of dollars if people die by assisted suicide rather than continue expensive healthcare.
In 2021, the Canadian Parliament passed Bill C-7, removing a requirement that a person’s natural death be “reasonably foreseeable” to be eligible for “medical assistance in dying” (MAiD).
While proponents of the availability of MAiD argued that it had nothing to do with money and was about the importance of allowing people in pain to “die with dignity,” financial considerations are beginning to emerge on the front pages.
Canadian who cannot get affordable housing gets approved for Medical Aid in Dying
On April 30, 2022, CTV News published a story about a 31-year-old Toronto woman who was approved for assisted suicide because she could not get access to an affordable apartment that would not trigger her disease. The unnamed woman, who is in a wheelchair due to an unrelated spinal injury, has been diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), and the chemicals that cause her to get rashes and very severe headaches are cigarette smoke, laundry chemicals, and air fresheners. At least 700,000 Canadians have chemical sensitivities, per CVT News. She needs an apartment that is 1) wheelchair accessible and 2) doesn’t have the chemicals that make her sick. The government pays her $1,169 a month in disability.
She and her supporters called ten agencies to help with housing but they were not able to assist her in finding a place to live, so she began to apply for MAiD in 2021. She was approved and told CVT News that she was “relieved and elated” that she can now die. She told CVT News, “I’ve applied for MAiD essentially…because of abject poverty.”
In 2023, Canada will make assisted suicide an option for those who solely suffer mental illness
In March 2023, Canada plans to expand the availability of assisted suicide to “competent adults whose sole underlying condition is a mental illness. According to the National Post, this includes those who do not have physical symptoms but suffer from psychiatric conditions including depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenia, PTSD, and other mental issues.
The report cites Vancouver psychiatrist Derryck Smith’s testimony before a Senate committee that Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench had allowed assisted suicide for a woman who suffered from a nervous system disorder that could cause involuntary muscle spasms and whose eyelids had closed, effectively blinding her. He also testified that a woman whose anorexia nervous had led to hospitalization and force-feeding and who consequently had no social life was also an appropriate candidate for assisted suicide.
Canadian Parliamentary Budget Officer calculates that the suicide law will save millions in healthcare costs
In 2017, the Canadian Medical Association Journal released a report that MAiD could reduce annual healthcare spending by between $34.7 and $136.8 million. In contrast, the cost of implementing MAiD would be between $1.5 to $144.8 million per year. The report’s author, Aaron Trachenberg, told CBC News that, “The take-away point is that there may be some upfront costs associated with offering medical assisted dying to Canadians, but there may also be a reduction in spending elsewhere in the system and therefore offering medical assistance in dying to Canadians will not cost the health care system anything extra.”
Trachenberg said, “In a resource-limited health care system, anytime we roll out a large intervention there has to be a certain amount of planning and preparation and cost has to be part of that discussion.”
In October 2020, the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer projected that there would be 6,465 MAiD deaths. The officer calculated that the deaths would reduce health care costs by $109.2 million, and that the cost of the assisted suicides would be $22.3 million (so the deaths would cost $3,449.34 each if you’re doing the math). The suicides would save the government a net of $86.9 million (or $13,441.60 per assisted death).
Pressure on the poor “to die with dignity”
Dr. Sonu Gaind, chief of psychiatry at a Toronto hospital, told CanadaLand.com, “For marginalized populations – who are struggling with poverty, with loneliness, with access to proper medical care – for those marginalized populations, we’re saying we will provide you death that’s easier, we’ll provide you death with dignity. But society has never given them a chance to live with dignity.” He predicts that two groups will seek MAiD. First, those who are privileged will now “receive greater autonomy to die on their terms.” But there will also be “more marginalized populations seeking assisted-dying for social suffering, because society couldn’t or wouldn’t help them in other ways.”
There is little argument that it costs far less for patients with a long-term disability to choose medically-assisted death than to continue to care for them, whether in nursing homes, mental facilities, or affordable apartments. Once death becomes the moral equivalent to life in a land of limited resources, society will cross a line to make death the preferred outcome for the most vulnerable in life. It is not entirely unpredictable that, eventually MAiD will be the default, and the poor with disabilities who don’t want to die will continue to struggle to get the medical help they need in countries with “universal” healthcare.
Canadian Government Website on Medical Aid in Dying – https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/medical-assistance-dying.html
PBO Report – “Cost Estimate for Bill C-7 ‘Medical Assistance in Dying,”10/20/2020- https://www.pbo-dpb.gc.ca/web/default/files/Documents/Reports/RP-2021-025-M/RP-2021-025-M_en.pdf
CanadaLand.com – 3/17/2021 – “I die when I run out of money” https://www.canadaland.com/madeline-medical-assistance-in-dying-priced-out-of-life/
CBC News – 1/23/2017 – “Medically assisted deaths could save millions in health care spending: Report” – https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/medically-assisted-death-could-save-millions-1.3947481?__vfz=medium%3Dsharebar
National Post – 4/4/2022 – “Canada will soon offer doctor-assisted death to the mentally ill. Who should be eligible?” https://nationalpost.com/health/canada-mental-illness-maid-medical-aid-in-dying
CTV News – 4/30/2022 – “Woman with disabilities nears medically assisted death after futile bid for affordable housing” https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/woman-with-disabilities-nears-medically-assisted-death-after-futile-bid-for-affordable-housing-1.5882202