Medical Aid in Dying: Navigating the Landmines in Legal and Moral End-of-Life Issues

Kevin Marshall

July 8, 2022

Let us speak of MAiD with clarity:  The term refers to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.  In many cases, a medical professional administers a lethal injection that ends the life of the patient (euthanasia), rather than providing the patient with the means to do so (assisted suicide).  

Euthanasia (and assisted suicide) has expanded.  It no longer merely provides relief from a painful death.  Effective March 17, 2022, it now provides relief from a painful life.*

Therefore, euthanasia/assisted suicide is now an option for the very people I deal with as clients on a daily basis:  The disabled.

If you are struggling with chronic pain or illness, I can only imagine that many days, many moments, seem like a burden you can no longer bear.  But please do not ever forget the one thing (or perhaps two things) that remain unchanged:  You still have inherent value, in and of yourself:  You are made in the image of God!  

And remember that you may have friends or family members who truly care for you - who see hope and a future beyond the dark clouds that currently envelop you.  There are opportunities to make life more wonderful, rather than simply less horrible.

If you are a caregiver - a friend or family member of a disabled person - thank you for your devotion!  The challenges you face are often very, very difficult.  Know that these efforts, these expressions of love, will be rewarded in this life, or the next - or both.  

My message today is for all of us:  Now that Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide has been legalized and expanded, is it to be embraced or to be shunned?

That, in turn, brings us back to an age-old question:  How are we to regard disabled persons?  Do they truly have the same inherent value as everyone else?

In considering this question, please do not neglect the underlying set of beliefs, values and assumptions that must guide your decision-making process.  

In helping you decide, I offer two stories that may be of assistance:

The author of the first story recounted seeing a bleeding, homeless man on the streets near her home in San Francisco.**  He was alone. An ambulance and paramedics were summoned and arrived on the scene, as did a homeless advocate. As the paramedics tended to the injured man’s wounds and loaded him on a stretcher, the advocate informed him of his right to refuse hospitalization.  The man agreed, and refused further treatment.  The ambulance, paramedics and advocate left.  The man was left by the side of the road, still bleeding and alone.  A few months later, he was found dead - not bleeding but still alone.

At around the same time, a very different story was taking place in Ukraine.  A bleeding Russian soldier was found alone on the side of a road by a Ukrainian villager.  His once bustling village had been ravished by Russian artillery strikes.  There were no ambulances or paramedics left to summon.

The villager hesitated, his mind flooding with the recent painful memories of death and destruction.  Seeing the need before him, he set aside these thoughts; he bandaged the wounds of the soldier, placed him gently in his car, and travelled back to his village, dodging Russian snipers along the way.  Arriving at his home, he removed the uniform of the injured man and dressed him in local attire.  Picking up some of the few remaining valuables that had escaped the Russian onslaught, he then continued his journey to the only remaining doctor in the village.  He offered the jewelry of his beloved wife, now dead.  “Take these,”  he said, “and care for this man.  I will have more to give you when I return next week.” ***

Having considered these stories, we are back to the question of how to regard disabled persons.  Other than pretending that they don’t exist, our options are clear:  First, like the homeless advocate, to be an ally to the community of homeless or disabled persons.  Or second, like the Ukrainian villager, to be a friend to the wounded man.  In other words, we can strive to empower the marginalized identity groups in society - or we can identify a need and take decisive action to help, sometimes at great personal expense.

Once you have decided among these options, you will then be better able to address the weighty issues of life and death, including Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

And for those of you who are disabled:  You, too, must grapple with these issues.  But society has burdened - or empowered - you, and you alone, with the decision to live or to die. You must choose the option of life or of euthanasia (or assisted suicide). Choose carefully. Make sure your wishes are clearly communicated in your Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

For you, and for all of us, let us each decide with care, compassion, and wisdom.

We can help you include the necessary clause to express your wishes about euthanasia in your Power of Attorney for Personal Care, together with all other health-related concerns.


* According to the federal government website, Medical Aid in Dying (euthanasia and assisted suicide) is now available to “eligible persons whose death is not reasonably foreseeable”, including persons with “enduring and intolerable physical or psychological suffering that cannot be alleviated under conditions the person considers acceptable”.

**  Nellie Bowles, “How San Francisco became a failed city” The Atlantic, June 8, 2022.

*** This is the story of “The Good Samaritan”, as retold, reimagined, and contextualized to Ukraine, c. Spring 2022.  The original story (or parable), upon which it is based, is found in The Holy Bible, Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, verses 25 to 37.