(National Post) Just as Ottawa publicly acknowledges that its assisted suicide regime might have gone too far, critics have highlighted the existence of a little-known medical assistance in dying children’s activity book that was funded by the Canadian government.
The Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) Activity Book was first published in July by the group Canadian Virtual Hospice.
The book is not intended for children who are themselves seeking assisted death, and it’s not subject to mass-distribution through schools or public libraries. Minors are ineligible for medically assisted death in Canada, although there has been a push by the Quebec College of Physicians to extend the practice to severely disabled newborns.
Rather, the activity book is intended for children who may soon be attending a medically assisted death in person. “Created for young people who have someone in their life who may have MAID,” the group declared in a statement.
MAID is defined in the booklet as the use of medicines to stop a “person’s body from working.”
“When their body stops working, the person dies,” it reads.
The booklet describes MAID as a last-ditch measure reserved only for consenting adults afflicted with an illness or disability that “hurts their body or their mind so much that it feels too hard to keep living.”
Children are guided through the “three medicines” that constitute the lethal injection process, and are urged not to attempt to change the mind of a family member who has opted for assisted death. “As much as other people may want to change their mind, the person who is choosing MAID probably wishes just as strongly that they could change their illness or condition and how it is affecting their life,” it reads.
Financed by Health Canada, the 26-page booklet was written by Ceilidh Eaton Russell, a McMaster University lecturer and a consultant on grief in children. Russell is also behind the handbook Living Dying: A Guide for Adults Supporting Grieving Children and Teenagers.
The Canadian system of medically assisted death was legalized in 2016 following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling and has rapidly become the world’s most liberalized euthanasia regime. It has attracted international attention in recent months for a string of cases in which patients with chronic illnesses were offered death in lieu of treatment.
This included at least five instances in which Canadian Armed Forces veterans were offered MAID by a Veteran Affairs caseworker after seeking help for chronic conditions including PTSD.
On Tuesday, Minister of Veterans Affairs Lawrence MacAulay called it “harmful misinformation” that veterans were being offered assisted death – despite his own testimony to a House of Commons committee admitting as much.
However, last week Justice Minister David Lametti did announce that he intended to delay the March rollout of a measure that would extend MAID to Canadians whose only underlying condition is mental illness. This came after multiple statements by Lametti that the MAID system was working, and that controversial cases were aberrations.
Recent years have also seen a growing number of Canadian institutions treating MAID as a normal component of the country’s medical system. In 2020, the Parliamentary Budget Office prepared a report for the House of Commons noting that MAID would yield a net savings for the health-care system by slashing the need for palliative care and other “end of life” costs.
Last month, the Canadian clothing retailer Simons took down a commercial it had commissioned celebrating what it called the “hard beauty” of assisted suicide. It later emerged that the woman featured in the ad, Jennyfer Hatch, had sought MAID only after the B.C. medical system failed to provide her with appropriate care for a rare disease.
Throughout all this, the MAID activity book has largely escaped notice, aside from a few brief mentions on conservative websites.
Over the summer, the right-wing U.S. magazine National Review slammed the book as a means of introducing Canadian children to the “medical killing fields.” It also received a brief mention on the Australian anti-euthanasia website BioEdge, which described it as promoting the “normalization of euthanasia.”
But attention flared up this month when the book was featured in a widely circulated tweet by the group Canada Unity, which was one of the early organizers of the Freedom Convoy, the trucker protest against the pandemic mandates that blockaded Downtown Ottawa for several weeks last winter.
Reporting from the National Post.