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The Collapse of Consent in Canada

Canada’s surging number of assisted suicides reveals that consent is a weak and malleable thing.

Nurse,Holding,A,Hand,Of,A,Patient
(Patrick Thomas/Shutterstock)

Amir Farsoud is going to be murdered. The 54-year-old Canadian, whose story went viral online this week, is in the last stages of approval for “medical assistance in dying” (MAID), the neat bureaucratic euphemism for our northern neighbor’s rapidly advancing euthanasia program. In 2016, the country authorized physicians to kill their patients in cases of terminal illness or “reasonably foreseeable” death; Farsoud is being euthanized for back pain.

At least, that is the medical justification being given. In reality, he is struggling financially and about to lose his home. As Farsoud sees it, he has run out of options. He told Toronto’s CityNews: “I don’t want to die. But I don’t want to be homeless more than I don’t want to die.”

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Farsoud feels pushed to this decision, and it is not hard to see why. Yet others have been nudged toward MAID by far more direct means. Roger Foley has dealt with medical troubles for most of his life, and a chronic illness has left him confined to a bed and in full-time hospital care for the last six years. He is currently suing Victoria Hospital, where he has been treated in that time, for encouraging him to seek MAID against his stated wishes. Their reasoning, Foley claims, is that it is much too expensive to keep him alive.

Alan Nichols’s case was different. In 2019 Nichols, then 61, was hospitalized in British Columbia “over fears he might be suicidal.” Inexplicably, a commitment meant to prevent Nichols from suicide led in short order to euthanasia. Nichols had a long history of depression, but the medical justification given for his killing was “hearing loss.” His brother Gary and other family members claim he was not mentally competent at the time of his supposed decision, and that hospital staff inappropriately assisted in his request for MAID. Gary reported the misconduct to police, and says that “Alan was basically put to death.”

More recently, a Canadian veteran struggling with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury called a Veterans Affairs Canada helpline in hopes of getting treatment. Unprompted, the VAC employee on the other end of the line suggested that the veteran might consider euthanasia. VAC has undertaken numerous initiatives in the past few years to get a handle on astronomical rates of suicide among veterans; now, it seems the agency is conflicted.

And these are just the people on whom it didn’t work—those who rejected the coercion and went public about it (or, in Nichols’s case, those whose family spoke out, even once it was too late). There is no telling how many of the tens of thousands of Canadian victims of euthanasia were successfully talked into it by death-cult witch-doctors or death-panel bureaucrats, and went to their graves without ever making that part of the story known.

No doubt, much of the problem here is exactly what Foley and his allies suggest: budget calculus. Keeping people with chronic illnesses alive is expensive work, and in a socialized health care system like Canada’s all incentives operate in the direction of limiting such costs.

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But there are deeper evils at work as well, as made evident by Canada’s pending expansion of MAID to people dealing exclusively with mental illness. Not only is “reasonably foreseeable” death no longer a requirement; starting next year, no physical ailment at all will be needed to justify euthanasia. Plain and simple suicide is becoming a state-sanctioned practice.

In many ways this was predictable. In fact, it was inevitable. Terminal illness was the test case because of its emotional charge—most people don’t want to tell a cancer patient that he has to die in drawn-out agony—but the logic of euthanasia in those cases was always equally applicable to other kinds of suffering, and it was always going to be applied to other kinds of suffering. 

Euthanasia is made possible by a moral system that treats human life in utilitarian terms. That means treating a man like Roger Foley as a line-item on a budget, yes. But it also means denying any inherent value—some might say sanctity—in human life beyond the subjective. If experienced pleasure does not outweigh experienced pain, then there is no reason to keep on living, and no moral proscription against ending your own life.

As one man, Mitchell Tremblay, who hopes to be euthanized for depression told CTV News, “​​You know what your life is worth to you. And mine is worthless.” That is not just a cry for help, a mere manifestation of severe psychological problems; it is a logical development from the fundamental premises of liberalism. When you subject the entire moral order to the human will, when you make consent the only criterion for moral judgment, when you wipe out the ancient understanding of the world in which suffering has its place, all of this becomes permissible and all of it becomes predictable.

Hard cases like those above raise practical questions about the consent standard. Consent, especially under the kind of pressure inherent in situations like these, is a weak and malleable thing. Alan Nichols signed on the dotted line. Amir Farsoud is prepared to do the same. Yet even liberals are forced to admit that neither of these men freely chose to die.

Those practical concerns point toward more fundamental problems, too. Any non-sociopath will be moved profoundly by stories like Farsoud’s and statements like Mitchell Tremblay’s. A normal person, even a normal liberal, will feel in his gut that this is wrong. He will see in Amir Farsoud the agonized human face of the destructive, coercive power of the rights-and-consent regime. The overstep of the culture of death in Canada will invite hard questions about all of the moral assumptions that enabled it.

I do not think it is foolish to think—at least to hope—that no evil can long withstand such a powerful sense of the natural law transgressed. And when by the grace of God euthanasia falls, it can hardly be expected to fall alone.

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