Canadian academics write paper arguing that poverty should not disqualify people from euthanasia

A new paper by two bioethicists at the University of Toronto makes the case that euthanizing the poor should be socially acceptable. Kayla Wiebe, a PhD candidate in philosophy, and bioethicist Amy Mullin, a philosophy professor, wrote in the Journal of Medical Ethics that:  

To force people who are already in unjust social circumstances to have to wait until those social circumstances improve, or for the possibility of public charity but unreliably occurs when particularly distressing cases become public, is unacceptable. A harm reduction approach acknowledges that the recommended solution is necessarily an imperfect one: a ‘lesser evil’ between two or more less than ideal options.

The horror stories of Canadians seeking assisted suicide because they cannot get the social assistance they need are “worst-case scenarios,” the bioethicists write. “One way of responding to these cases is, ‘Well, clearly then, medical aid in dying should not be available to them,’” Mullin said in an interview. “We just don’t think the fact that social conditions are contributing to make their lives intolerable means that they don’t have the wherewithal to make that choice. People can make their own determination about whether their lives are worth living, and we should respect that.” 

Wiebe and Mullin reject the idea that the circumstances driving Canadians to suicide are coercive, and that refusing to kill them upon request “amounts to perpetuating their suffering, hoping that this will ultimately lead to a better, more ‘just’ world.” In their view, the best “harm reduction approach” would mean that “the least harmful way forward is to allow MAiD to be available.” 


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