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Euthanasia program entices suffering Canadians

Medical Assistance in Dying disproportionately hurts the vulnerable


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Euthanasia program entices suffering Canadians

On good days, 55-year-old Amir Farsoud in St. Catharines, Ontario, takes pain meds—lots of them. On bad days, he says he can’t even get out of bed no matter how many pills he takes. Farsoud’s trouble started in the 1970s, when he fell off a horse and injured his back. Over the years his pain has progressively worsened.

“A lot of my daily life has become not much more than pain management,” he said.

Farsoud can’t work due to his pain, so he survives off $1,200 per month from the Ontario Disability Support Program. With hefty medical bills and $900 a month in rent, Farsoud barely got by.

In October 2022, Farsoud’s landlord put his rooming house up for sale. He couldn’t find another place where could afford to live on his disability benefits. Struggling medically and financially, Farsoud consulted with his doctor about applying for Canada’s government-funded Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) program.

“I decided if it’s going to be homeless or dead, I’m going to take dead,” he said.

In 2021, Canada euthanized over 10,000 people. Experts are raising concerns about a planned expansion of the program to include patients suffering from mental illness. The Canadian government, currently led by members of the Liberal Party, paused the expansion in December after hearing stories from the expert review panel.

Canada legalized euthanasia in 2016, passing a law to allow Canadians with a “foreseeable death” to apply for assistance in killing themselves. In March 2021, Parliament passed another bill opening euthanasia to those with disabilities or “grievous and irremediable medical conditions.”

“The government is rushing to expand MAID, notwithstanding the fact that what we see is that the current regime is not working,” said Michael Cooper, a member of parliament for the Conservative Party representing the St. Albert-Edmonton region. He is a member of a special committee on euthanasia policy, where he advocates against expanding Medical Assistance in Dying.

“Vulnerable Canadians are falling through the cracks,” Cooper said. “People are seeking MAID because of things like a lack of adequate housing. Clearly, safeguards are not being enforced, and before the government moves forward with expanding MAID, we need to look at the existing regime. And the fact is that it is not working as it was designed.”

Dr. Ewan Goligher, a Christian physician and scientist who works in critical care at the University of Toronto, said vulnerable Canadians are not just those without social support or financial resources. “Vulnerability is also whether you have the internal spiritual resources to cope with suffering when it comes your way,” he said. In his line of work, he often works with patients at the end of their lives and has observed that many people who pursue euthanasia aren’t religious. “I think because of that, whenever it comes time for them to suffer, it’s very difficult for them to see a point in going on,” he said.

Goligher says Christians have the opportunity to share the gospel with those suffering.

“I think we can be a powerful kind of witness to the world that we don’t need death when we suffer, because we have something even better than freedom from suffering,” he said. “For the world, the concept of something better than freedom from suffering is unthinkable.”

When Farsoud told his doctor that housing concerns prompted his euthanasia request, the doctor hesitated to approve it. His doctor emailed him links to various support services, but Farsoud had his mind made up. He received the first signature for his euthanasia application from his doctor, with only one more needed to become eligible.

About that time, Farsoud signed an online petition asking the Ontario government to double disability support and welfare benefits. He sent a note explaining his story to the petition’s creator, Toronto lawmaker Chris Glover.

Glover forwarded the note to CityNews, which aired a video story profiling Farsoud on Oct. 13. It struck a nerve. A woman with the online name, “Effie,” set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Farsoud. Within days, people donated over $60,000.

With money from the fundraiser, Farsoud paid off $20,000 in debts and still had enough money to supplement his disability benefits by $800 a month. Local parliament members offered to move him up on the waitlist for affordable housing. Homelessness no longer a concern, Farsoud canceled his Medical Assistance in Dying application.

Without that support, Farsoud says, he would not be alive today. He credits Glover for getting the word out about his needs. “Because of him, I’m here talking to you instead of in a box 6 feet under,” Farsoud said.


Alexandra Ellison

Alexandra Ellison is a graduate of World Journalism Institute.

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