A Canadian study published in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine says patients requesting euthanasia aren’t necessarily in physical pain—they’re in “existential distress.”
Canada legalized euthanasia last summer, and since then, hundreds have opted for the new Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID). The Toronto-based study used data from four hospitals participating in MAID and concluded fear of not being in control is a leading factor when people want to die.
“Those who received MAID tended to be white and relatively affluent and indicated that loss of autonomy was the primary reason for their request,” the report states. “Other common reasons included the wish to avoid burdening others or losing dignity and the intolerability of not being able to enjoy one’s life. Few patients cited inadequate control of pain or other symptoms.”
Researcher Madeline Li told The Washington Post that the findings of the study surprised her.
“They are mostly educated and affluent—people who are used to being successful and in control of their lives, and it’s how they want their death to be,” Li said. She talked about a marathon runner bedridden from cancer: “That was not how she saw her identity.”
Under MAID, patients must have a “grievous and irremediable medical condition,” where natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.” They don’t need to be fatally or terminally ill to qualify.
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Publication date: June 9, 2017