Canada is giving us a glimpse into what is probably our own near future, namely a society in which suicidal ideation, and the act itself, are totally normalised for those facing very difficult circumstances, and who are turning in growing numbers to assisted suicide providers. This is starkly revealed by a very disturbing article carried in the latest edition of The New Atlantis, a magazine that looks at the ethical issues associated with technological developments.
Examples have emerged recently of Canadians who suffer from chronic conditions or disabilities, and have trouble accessing adequate supports or housing, either being presented with the option of assisted suicide by heath workers, or else asking for it themselves.
Assisted suicide providers and advocates have either denied such cases exist, or else insisted that they are outliers and not typical of what is happening more broadly. But the New Atlantis has uncovered online discussions between assisted suicide providers in which they admit that chronically ill or disabled Canadians who are not receiving sufficient supports are starting to turn to assisted suicide as a way out.
They discuss cases of named people in these situations. We are not told what happened to them. The participants express concern that social supports are inadequate and hope this will improve, but tellingly they do not in principle oppose assisted suicide in such cases. This is as you would expect because they support assisted suicide in principle, and sometimes facilitate it as well.
To make things worse, these individuals are members of the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers (CAMAP), which the Canadian government funds in order to set ‘standards’ for assisted suicide providers across the country.
Last year in Canada, more than 10,000 died by assisted suicide. Initially the procedure was introduced for terminal illnesses only, but this was quickly expanded to people suffering from chronic and “unbearable” conditions with no prospect of a cure. Soon it is likely to be extended to people suffering from serious mental illnesses.
Most societies in history made suicide a taboo for a reason; if it was not, then too many people would be tempted by it.
We can now see from Canada that a growing number of people living very difficult lives are indeed starting to turn to assisted suicide as a way out of their difficulties. The message to everyone else facing similar circumstances is that this is both understandable and acceptable and will sometimes be facilitated. Suicide with the help of doctors will become totally socially unacceptable and normative. It is a dystopian vision, and increasingly a dystopian reality. It is very easy to see something similar happening here. The answer to suffering will be death.