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People suffering with chronic pain need our love and support, not euthanasia

by | Feb 22, 2024

Lana’s case highlights that those around us suffering from pain should never, ever, feel most affirmed by the doctors tasked with approving their suicide.

By Joathan Van Maren

Another day, another awful euthanasia headline from Canada. This time, it comes from CityNews Vancouver: “‘Don’t take your health for granted,’ Vancouver Island 26-year-old says preparing for medically assisted death.” 

The story opens with a rhetorical question: “If you had unbearable, untreatable pain – where would you end up?” Lana, who kept her last name private, says that the “untreatable pain” caused, in part, by “a malfunctioning immune system,” has led her to the conclusion that euthanasia is the only option for her. 

It is impossible to read the details of Lana’s pain without recognizing, as she says, that those of us free of chronic pain should not take it for granted, as we so often do. Her story is an important reminder that many of those around us do suffer daily, and that this suffering often goes without recognition. 

But her story, in the context of Canada’s euthanasia regime, demands our attention for another reason, as well – because it provokes an emotional response that is being used to create sympathy for the idea that such people should be granted a lethal injection as a final “solution.” As Lana says: “Maybe there are two or three people in B.C. who have something I do or experience the world like me, and they can see this and think maybe they’re not alone.” 

It is essential that those enduring what Lana is experiencing do not feel alone, and that they do feel seen and heard. But surely I’m not the only one who thinks that it would be awful for them to discover that someone else is suffering precisely what they are suffering – and that they are choosing suicide-by-doctor as a way out.

For someone mustering the courage each day to face more pain; for those whom it takes immense effort merely to stay alive and to choose life, Lana’s story sends them a horrible message – not “I’m here for you,” but “There is a way out. You can die.” 

“I felt so lonely for some years with all these symptoms and this progressive dysfunction that no one could address, no one could answer,” Lana said. Last fall, she recounted, her pain “peaked” and she decided to opt for euthanasia. “And from that point just… this is what needs to happen. This isn’t a decision. I can’t take this. It’s unbearable. It’s just gotten worse, and worse, and worse, and it needs to happen.” It must be said: the reason Lana could choose “it” is because the government has created a regime in which Lana can choose to be euthanized by a doctor. This wasn’t just her decision.  

CityNews also gave a glimpse of another aspect of the story: 

During the assessment process to receive approval for MAiD, Lana says she found an affirmation of her suffering that she hadn’t felt before. ‘That piece of validation can be so important, [after] having spent so much time trying to advocate for yourself in a system that feels like you are on a treadmill with the highest incline.’ It has been years, she says, of people doubting her pain. ‘A big part of the reason I [am sharing my story], is the loneliness I felt and I do want to include that part – I want people to know if they are struggling in similar ways, or god [sic] forbid the same way, I see them.’

Lana is echoing a story we’ve now heard dozens of times: someone who desperately tried to get the care she needed from Canada’s broken healthcare system but was worn down and worn out by the barriers she faced. After years attempting to get help “on a treadmill with the highest incline” in which people doubted her pain, she decided to choose euthanasia.

But it is clear that euthanasia was not her first choice – it was the choice she made when all other choices seemed exhausted. I think often of the Winnipeg woman who chose euthanasia after failing to get the help she needed, who wrote: “Ultimately… it was a system that took me out.”  

Lana’s family asked her to wait until after her 27th birthday to be euthanized, and she agreed. “I am in the process of figuring out how to live with the awareness of my own death, and I will be until the last moment I think,” she said. She has cried a lot; the goodbyes have been very hard.

She “is arranging to have her ashes pressed into vinyl records which will play some of her favourite songs to those she loves,” which is intended to be a loving gesture but sounds unbelievably morbid and grotesque to me. She’s arranged for her organs to be donated, which she is happy about. 

“I am unbelievably grateful I have this option because there’s one other outcome if MAiD weren’t available for me, and that’s for me to take this into my own hands and do this alone,” she told CityNews. “Through MAiD I’ve been able to direct my own death, have time with loved ones, to feel validated in my suffering by the assessors.”

Here she is repeating the narrative of Canada’s euthanasia activists; that if Lana could not die at the end of a doctor’s needle, she would die some other way, perhaps messily. This is not the case – all evidence indicates that one of the reasons for Canada’s skyrocketing euthanasia rates is the fact that it has been medicalized, sanctioned by the government, and framed as healthcare. 

In fact, Lana is not “directing her own death,” as she puts it. She is following a script that has been written by our government, which has decided who is eligible for a lethal injection and who is not. I hope that those who read her story will not take from it what she hopes they will – except for the urgent reminder that those around us suffering from pain should never, ever, feel most affirmed by the doctors tasked with approving their suicide. 

Send an urgent message to Canadian legislators urging them to stop expanding assisted suicide.

Categories: Euthanasia