Canada MAID decision a startling ‘devaluing’ of people with disabilities

2 mins read
Canada MAID ruling
Then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould of Canada speaks about the government's "medical assistance in dying" bill, or MAID, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, June 1, 2016. When she announced plans to legalize medically assisted dying nearly a decade ago for people with a terminal illness, she told reporters, "For some, medical assistance in dying will be troubling. For others, this legislation will not go far enough." The law was expanded in 2021 to cover people with incurable, but not terminal, conditions, and in 2027 it may be expanded to those whose sole condition is mental illness. (OSV News photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters)

(OSV News) — A decision by a judge in Calgary, Alberta, in favor of a young woman seeking medically assisted suicide over her father’s objections amounts to “the blatant devaluing of persons with disabilities,” a Canadian activist told OSV News.

On March 25, Justice Colin Feasby ruled that the 27-year-old — whose name has been withheld by the courts, and who was identified by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation only as M.V. — could pursue her plan to end her life through Canada’s law on “medical assistance in dying,” or MAID.

Enacted in 2016, MAID exempts from criminal charges doctors and nurse practitioners who either directly administer or prescribe medication to cause a person’s death at their own request. The law includes protocols for ensuring a patient requesting MAID is fully informed and freely consents.

M.V., who lives with her father — identified by the CBC as W.V. — was approved for MAID in December and was scheduled to end her life at home Feb. 1. According to a report by the CBC, she did not file any court documents explaining on what grounds she came to qualify for MAID.

Her father received a temporary junction the day before her MAID appointment, arguing that his daughter “suffers from autism and possibly other undiagnosed maladies that do not satisfy the eligibility criteria for MAID.”

In February, Canada’s government deferred until 2027 on making euthanasia available to those whose sole condition is mental illness; however, the text of Bill C-62 did not specify if autism qualified as such a condition.

Feasby said in his 34-page ruling that M.V.’s “dignity and right to self-determination” took precedence over the “profound grief” her father would experience at her death.

With the judge also issuing a 30-day stay of his decision, the woman’s father will have the chance to take his case to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

Discrimination against those with disabilities

Calgary-based Amanda Achtman, who works to end MAID, told OSV News that discrimination against those with autism and other disabilities is at the heart of the ruling.

“If this young woman did not have autism, she would not be eligible for euthanasia in Canada,” said Achtman, founder of the Dying to Meet You project, through which she aims to change the cultural conversation around suffering and death by writing, speaking and creating short films featuring individuals who find reasons to live amid serious illness.

The judge’s decision sends “a message to everyone with autism” that “in a moment of weakness, a person with autism who is struggling with suicidal ideation may be killed rather than helped,” Achtman said.

“It is intrinsic to the eugenic mindset that ending someone’s life could be in their best interest,” she said. “The father fighting for his daughter’s life loves her more than the judge ruling that she can be euthanized on the basis of having autism and ADHD.”

Social euthanasia

Achtman said the ruling was foreshadowed in a 2013 decision by the Ontario Crown Attorney’s Office that an anonymous letter asking a family to move or euthanize its son with autism did not qualify as a hate crime.

“This kind of social euthanasia, whereby people are ejected from the human community, is what precedes legal euthanasia and then propels its normalization,” she said.

Canada’s 2021 “Track 2” expansion of MAID to those whose with serious and incurable illness or disability — but whose deaths are not reasonably foreseeable — only accelerated that trend, said Achtman.

“The majority of Canadians euthanized in this track have some form of neurological condition such as Parkinson’s, ALS, MS, or dementia,” she said, adding, “Autism, too, is a neurological condition.”

Those who are “neurodivergent” have “countless ways” to “lead flourishing lives and enrich our communities,” said Achtman.

“Designating any demographic as particularly eligible for a premature death is utterly dehumanizing, and makes all of our lives and the lives of those we love more precarious,” she said. “If this 27-year-old woman were not neurodivergent, no physician or nurse could legally end her life. Track 2 MAID, as it’s called in Canada, is modern eugenics being masqueraded as ‘autonomy’ for persons with disabilities.”

Gina Christian

Gina Christian is a National Reporter for OSV News.