In March of 2021, the Canadian Parliament passed the world’s most liberal euthanasia law. The law scrapped the previous requirement that a person’s death be foreseeable. No longer would assisted suicide hurry death along. Now, it would prescribe death to people with decades left to live so long as their disease was deemed “grievous and irremediable.”
Millions of Canadians now qualify to receive what the government terms “medical assistance in dying,” or MAID, Dr. John Maher, a psychiatrist in Ontario, told The American Spectator. Any serious health problem can be enough to justify it. And starting in 2023, Canadians will also be able to receive MAID because of mental illnesses.
Unlike the European countries which have legalized assisted suicide — including Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg — patients do not need to undergo treatment for their disease before a doctor delivers the fatal dose. They merely need to be informed of their treatment options.
“Patients are refusing effective treatment because they want to die,” said Maher.
He said that he knows of a 17-year-old patient with depression who is refusing treatment so that she can receive assisted suicide next year when she is 18 and mental illnesses have been phased into the medical assistance in dying law, which is known as C-7.
His own patients are doctor-shopping to receive assisted suicide even though the treatments he is giving them are working, Maher said. In Canada, any doctor or nurse practitioner can administer MAID. “There is no panel or commission or review board process,” he said.
In February, an assisted suicide took place that was so baseless and unjustified under the framework of C-7 that even proponents of assisted suicide are likening it to homicide. The case is flummoxing: a 51-year-old woman was killed because of a condition that the vast majority of doctors believe is not a real disease, even though it is recognized as a disability in Canada.
The tragic case of Sophia — the pseudonym her friends refer to her by — brings attention to the slippery slope that is euthanasia. Once a society has accepted that a person’s life can ethically be ended under the principle of autonomy, the taboo on suicide is shattered. When a person in these societies encounters grave suffering, the worth of their life is gone. It’s better for them to be dead than alive.
Garnett Genuis, a Conservative member of Parliament from Saskatchewan who opposed C-7, told The American Spectator: “It is unbelievable and tragic just how far we have slid down the slope in just a year.”
Sophia had gotten sucked into a tight-knit group of people who say they experience extreme sensitivities to household chemicals. Anything from shampoo to deodorant to perfume to pesticides to foods to laundry detergent can trigger a reaction. These groups refer to the condition as multiple chemical sensitivities, or MCS.
“People get into the clutches of a small network of doctors who tell them the problem is chemicals,” explained Dr. Stephen Barrett, who has written about the phenomenon. Copious research, he explained, has shown that people with MCS have their symptoms triggered by the belief that they have a sensitivity to certain chemicals rather than by the chemicals themselves. He said that it is very difficult to treat a person who believes they have MCS but that psychotherapy has been helpful in some cases. In treatment, he said, it is explained to the patient that they are experiencing a stress reaction rather than a reaction to chemicals.
Sophia wrote that cigarette and pot smoke as well as chemical cleaners used in her apartment building’s hallways were wafting into her apartment through the ventilation system. According to CTV News, she kept sealing off the vents in her bedroom, which she called her “dungeon,” to prevent the smoke from coming in.
Sophia had been a member of a group that promoted the cause of those with MCS, known as the Environmental Health Association of Québec. The group, like others that promote the cause of multiple chemical sensitivities, could be classified as environmental extremists. They believe that any synthetic chemical can be harmful and dream of a world sans anything unnatural.
Rohini Peris, the president of the organization, told The American Spectator that what she terms “healthy housing” is “the basis of everything” for advocating for those with MCS.
“Healthy housing” means a home that will keep a person with MCS safe from any of the chemicals that trigger their MCS symptoms. In 2010, a Canadian woman diagnosed with MCS, Linda Sepp, was offered no less than seven homes to treat her condition. And yet, none of those seven homes met her conditions for being isolated from chemicals and thus did not qualify as “healthy housing.” She felt “abandoned” by those who were trying to help her, she said.
Peris said that unless people with MCS have healthy housing, “nothing is going to work.”
That’s exactly what Sophia came to believe.
Sophia had been desperately searching for healthy housing for over a decade. A few years ago, she applied to be a tenant in a utopian “clean air” community that the Environmental Health Association of Québec was seeking to establish in Quebec’s isolated Laurentian Mountains. The project, known as ECOASIS, has been stalled because of funding difficulties stemming from the cost of starting a housing project in an entirely isolated region. She also got her apartment renovated so that the vents would be sealed off to prevent any smoke from leaking in.
Sophia wrote that she was pursuing medical assistance in dying because she could not find healthy housing. She wrote letters begging her landlord to accommodate her and begging the government to provide her with housing that would not trigger her condition.
She wrote: “My landlord does not believe anything is wrong with me, and refuses to do anything else to help me with regards [to] making this apartment safe for me to live. I have given up hope and have applied for — and now qualify for — MAID.”
Peris said that she spoke with Sophia daily to try to help her and worked as hard as she could to find healthy housing for her. After raising $12,000 for Sophia, Peris said that her group found a house for Sophia that she believed would not trigger her condition.
“She had a way out that it was 100 percent certain it would be given to her,” said Peris.
Peris said it was unclear whether Sophia’s doctor knew she had been offered housing that would accommodate her. “When you are about to put somebody to death,” she said, “you should find out everything about the situation.”
“We are absolutely heartbroken,” she said, noting, “We are not a MAID organization.” Peris said she is worried because she knows more people with MCS who are seeking out assisted suicide because they have been unable to find healthy housing.
Despite the Environmental Health Association of Québec’s earnest efforts to help Sophia, Barrett, the psychiatrist who has written about multiple chemical sensitivities, said that advocating for healthy housing for those who believe they have MCS “is more likely to harm them than to help them,” as it reinforces the condition and it is not possible for any housing to satisfy the person. Peris responded to this perspective by saying: “Multiple chemical sensitivity is not a religion to be believed in or not to be believed in.” Barrett told The American Spectator that he disagreed, saying that Sophia was killed because of an “emotional problem.”
Maher, the Canadian psychiatrist who has spoken out against C-7, said that he believes the doctor who killed Sophia should be charged, either for violating C-7 or for assisting suicide, which is punishable by up to 14 years in prison in Canada.
“Bill C-7 says the condition must be irremediable,” he said. “A new apartment is clearly a remedy in this case. She wanted the remedy. The doctors who approved and performed MAID in this instance have violated the homicide exemption.”
“No matter how you cut it with her,” he said, “it could have been fixed.”
But under C-7, there is no inbuilt mechanism to challenge doctors who administer MAID or any review process undergone before the person is killed. All that is required is for two doctors to sign on that the person’s condition is “grievous and irremediable” and for a person to witness the signing. When someone’s death is not foreseeable, there is also a 90-day waiting period and one of the physicians who signs on must be an expert in the condition causing the person’s suffering.
Maher said that Canadian police had not even investigated the case of Alan Nichols, a 61-year-old man with a history of depression who was killed in 2019 by a doctor despite his family’s public pleas that he did not meet the 2016 law’s requirement that his death be imminent.
Genuis, the member of Canada’s Parliament, told The American Spectator that he is not aware of a single case after euthanasia was legalized in Canada where a doctor received discipline for the unethical performance of MAID. A good-faith clause, he explained, makes it extremely difficult to prosecute a doctor for this.
Genuis explained that he and others have repeatedly drawn attention in parliamentary debate to the law’s complete lack of an enforcement mechanism, but that the Liberals have shown no interest in creating safeguards.
Maher said he believes C-7 is motivated by politicians’ desire to reduce the costs of Canada’s system of socialized medicine, where wait times are through the roof.
“We have no doubt it’s about saving money under the pretext of respecting your autonomy,” he said. “It’s cheaper to have people die.”
In this case, he said, providing Sophia with housing was more expensive than giving her a few inexpensive lethal drugs.
The logical conclusion of C-7’s elevation of autonomy, Maher argued, is that any Canadian who wants it should be able to receive euthanasia. That’s exactly what a 25,000-person strong group in the Netherlands, Last Will Cooperative, is lobbying for, he explained.
Sophia’s case shows that in practice C-7 already tends towards suicide on demand. That the justification for killing Sophia was so thin within Canada’s framework demonstrates that essentially any adult Canadian can be killed by a government doctor if he or she seeks out death.
A study published in April bodes ominously for Canada’s euthanasia system. The study showed that total suicide rates likely increased in European countries that adopted assisted suicide.
Maher explained that suicide contagion “absolutely seems to be a real thing.” C-7, he said, “promotes suicide contagion.”
While there has been some outcry to Sophia’s case, most of it has come from those arguing that the government should provide free healthy housing to those with multiple chemical sensitivities.
Dr. Catherine Ferrier, the president of the Canadian organization Physicians’ Alliance Against Euthanasia, told The American Spectator, “The Canadian public’s conscience has been so dulled by the affirmations of euthanasia proponents and politicians that there is not even an uproar when something like this happens.”
“Canadian society failed Sophia,” she said, “and continues to fail sick people by offering them death instead of treatment and support.”
Sophia’s story is by no means an isolated case. Another Canadian woman, a 31-year-old who is going by Denise to protect her identity, was interviewed by CTV News last week about her plans to receive medical assistance in dying because, according to the news source, she was unable “to secure an affordable apartment that doesn’t worsen her chronic illnesses.” Her main condition triggering her decision? Multiple chemical sensitivities. She has been approved for MAID.
The Canadian government is euthanizing people who have nothing wrong with them. And there’s no law that can stop it.