Forced by the courts, the Canadian government has recently instituted an expansive Medical Assistance in Dying regime (MAID). You need not be terminal to seek MAID, and in March, 2023, you might even be able to seek MAID for mental health issues.
The usual Left impulse on MAID has been to honour people’s wishes, and afford them dignity and autonomy over their own bodies. Yet, a string of cases in Canada has troubled this impulse. There have been news reports of at least 14 cases in which patients seek MAID because they lack access to proper housing, health care, or disability supports. This means that MAID is not just being used to address the suffering resulting from illness–it is being used to address the suffering from poverty.
Is MAID letting the government off the hook from providing what they should be providing? Should we respect people’s choices on harm reduction grounds, even if those choices are severely constrained by an unjust social and political context? Should we give doctors this power over the mentally ill and disabled, given the racist and ableist nature of our crumbling health care system?
We’ll debate this and more, with perspectives from either side. Professor Trudo Lemmens argues that MAID sends a disturbing message: disabled lives aren’t worth living. Next, Dr. Derryk Smith of Dying with Dignity says just the opposite: excluding certain people from this civil liberty is tantamount to stigmatization.
This is first in a series of episodes we’ll be releasing, from time to time, on medical controversies and the politics of medical expertise. This series is receiving funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Dr. Maya Goldenberg and Dr. Maxwell J. Smith are scholarly advisors, with research from Yoshiyuki Miyasaka. For a full list of credits of Cited Media staff, visit our about page.