Euthanasia in Canada: the Inevitable Slippery Slope

Euthanasia is on the Rise in Canada

By ECLJ1683191700000

On the 44th session of the Universal Periodic Reviews, the ECLJ presented to the UN a report on Canada concerning the progressive development of euthanasia. Indeed, designated under the euphemism of Medical Aid in Dying (MAID), euthanasia seems to be under less and less control, as the initial limitations are progressively suppressed.

However, Canada is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states in Article 6 that “[e]very human being has the inherent right to life”[1], and to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which in Article 3 claims that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”.[2]

The slippery slope to normalize euthanasia

Euthanasia has been available in Canada since 2016. It was initially strictly framed: exclusively reserved to major people with incurable disease or condition, whose death is approaching in a foreseeable future, able to express enlightened consent, and being informed of alternatives.[3] Since then, the number of people resorting to it has steadily increased.[4] Mental illnesses were provisionally excluded from the conditions to perform euthanasia until March 2023 and this limit has been reconducted for a year, but it is clear it will not remain very much longer.[5] In February 2023, a parliamentary committee called for an opening of euthanasia to “mature minors,” even without parental consent.[6] Thus, the crumbling of the limitation supposed to guarantee a reasonable application of an exception to the prohibition of killing shows the way taken inevitably by any opening to euthanasia, that is to say, a progressive trivialization. Such an example should be a warning to those who would be tempted to accept euthanasia under the guarantee of strict limitation, for they shall only be provisional.

A mechanism of concern even to UN experts

Euthanasia is already available to persons with disabilities or conditions since 2021, when the condition of a foreseeable death was suppressed. The violation of both the right to life and human dignity caused by the MAID mechanism even pushed the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Older Persons, and the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human rights to express their concerns in a letter to the government of Canada, stating that such law imply “that it is better to be dead than to live with a disability.”[7] Indeed, allowing euthanasia of persons with disabilities will certainly not limit itself to letting those who ask for to die, but will also establish social pressure on the most fragile members of society, by making them understand it is better for everyone that they die. Lastly, despite a legal framework, the practice opens the door for abuses. A patient subject to suicidal thoughts and hospitalized for this very reason was finally euthanized in 2019 under the sole pretext of a loss of hearing despite the reservations expressed by his family and a nurse practitioner.[8] Euthanasia is a tragic symptom of a society that no longer can or want to take care of its weakest members. Isn’t ironic that a man admitted in a hospital because of his suicidal thoughts ended up killed by those who first prevented him to do so?

Thus, it can’t exist a reasonable application of euthanasia that does not infringe upon the right to life and does not invariably lead to an attack on human dignity. Canada should come back on its decision to authorize euthanasia and instead be concerned with bringing medical and technological advances to its citizens in need to ensure dignified living conditions and fair participation in society.


[1] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights | OHCHR, Article 6

[2] Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations, Article 3

[3] Canada Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46 at § 241.2(1), https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/page-33.html#h-119953

[4] Wesley J. Smith, 10,000+ Canadian Euthanasia Killings in 2021, National Review (Aug. 3, 2022, 10:56 AM), https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/10000-canadian-euthanasia-killings-in-2021/

[5] Ashley Carnahan, Canada Expanding Assisted Suicide Law to the Mentally Ill, New York Post (Oct. 28, 2022), https://nypost.com/2022/10/28/canada-expanding-assisted-suicide-law-to-the-mentally-ill/

[6] Samantha Kamman, Canada Considers Allowing Assisted Suicide for Children Without Parental Consent, Christian Post (Feb. 23, 2023), https://www.christianpost.com/news/canada-considers-assisted-suicide-for-children.html

[7] Mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Older Persons; and the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights (Feb. 3, 2021), page 5 https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=26002

[8] Maria Cheng, “Disturbing”: Experts Troubled by Canada’s Euthanasia Laws, AP News (Aug. 11, 2022), https://apnews.com/article/covid-science-health-toronto-7c631558a457188d2bd2b5cfd360a867

The UN must recall that euthanasia violates fundamental rights
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