Medical Assistance in Dying is only humane with a livable income
Medical assistance in dying (MAID) is widely accepted as a humane, safe way for terminally ill or suffering patients to end their lives with the help of medical professionals. But that can only be true if someone has a livable income.
Without the addition of monetary and housing supports for those in our lowest income brackets, the policy has a disproportionate and negative effect on the poor and disabled, many of whom feel their only choice is between poverty or death.
The practice was legalized by the federal government in 2016 and, due to a Quebec Superior Court ruling that some of its restrictions were unconstitutional, access to MAID was expanded in 2020 as part of Bill C-7.
More recently, Carla Qualtrough, minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, also touted a so-called “Canada Disability Benefit for low-income, working-age persons with disabilities.” The Liberal Party even ran on it in the last federal election. But it never came, either. Even during the peak of COVID-19, when workers and businesses received aid, the poor and disabled were ignored or forgotten.
Locally, Conservative MP Jamie Schmale had constituents weigh in on how he should vote on Bill C-7 in a referendum, where 65 per cent voted in the affirmative for the policy. As a result, Schmale voted for expanding MAID, breaking from the majority of his party. Despite his vote, Schmale has not pushed further for increased financial aid for the disabled and does not, for instance, support a basic income.
Now, as predicted, people are choosing MAID rather than continuing to live in poverty on inadequate provincial supports like the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), which pays up to $1,169 per month.
As CTV News reported, a 31-year-old Toronto woman who uses a wheelchair and has chemical sensitivities chose MAID over continuing to live. But was it a choice if her first choice, as she said, was to live? She wants a wheelchair-accessible home that is free from smoke and chemicals, but her only income is from ODSP. She receives the maximum monthly payment plus $50 for a special diet, making it impossible to afford housing. She applied for MAID “because of abject poverty.” Thankfully, due to a recent successful crowdfunding campaign that raised over $65,000, the woman has postponed MAID.
Another Toronto woman with chemical sensitivities, aged 51, recently chose MAID after a failed two-year search for affordable housing. Every level of government denied her the housing assistance she so desperately needed, so she wasn’t given any choice, she felt, except her own death. As reported by CTV News, she left behind letters detailing her search, in which she pleads with local, provincial and federal officials for help in finding a home safe from the smoke and chemicals polluting her apartment.
Federal MAID policy, combined with insufficient provincial disability supports, has created a grim choice for many disabled Canadians. But this problem should have been obvious to everyone. It was certainly obvious to those of us who receive tiny ODSP payments each month.
MAID isn’t a viable or humane policy if it’s not accompanied by proper social assistance supports as well.
–William Paterson is a Lindsay resident trying to live on what he is allotted under the Ontario Disability Support Program.