Since 2016, Canada has greatly expanded the circumstances under which physicians are allowed to provide what its laws term “medical assistance in dying.” Ross Douthat examines the results:
In 2021, over 10,000 people ended their lives this way, just over 3 percent of all deaths in Canada. A further expansion, allowing euthanasia for mental-health conditions, will go into effect in March 2023; permitting euthanasia for “mature” minors is also being considered.
The rules of civilization necessarily include gray areas. It is not barbaric for the law to acknowledge hard choices in end-of-life care, about when to withdraw life support or how aggressively to manage agonizing pain. It is barbaric, however, to establish a bureaucratic system that offers death as a reliable treatment for suffering and enlists the healing profession in delivering this “cure.” And while there may be worse evils ahead, this isn’t a slippery-slope argument: when 10,000 people are availing themselves of your euthanasia system every year, you have already entered the dystopia.
Indeed, according to a lengthy report by Maria Cheng of the Associated Press, the Canadian system shows exactly the corrosive features that critics of assisted suicide anticipated, from healthcare workers allegedly suggesting euthanasia to their patients to sick people seeking a quietus for reasons linked to financial stress.
But the evil isn’t just in these interactions; it’s there in the foundation. The idea that human rights encompass a right to self-destruction, the conceit that people in a state of terrible suffering and vulnerability are really “free” to make a choice that ends all choices, the idea that a healing profession should include death in its battery of treatments—these are inherently destructive ideas.