A Distressing Description of Canada’s ‘MAiD House”

Societal issues that involve a religious perspective are always emotionally charged and contentious. Voluntary Assisted Dying as we know is no stranger to the game.
Robust and respectful debate is always welcomed but sadly distinctly absent from much of VAD discourse.

It is a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment to be able to walk away from a debate on such a contentious topic and retain respect for not only “your foe” but also their stance on the issue and reasoning behind their perspective.

I was recently amazed at how distressed I became after reading one line of an article in BioEdge, a weekly newsletter said to independently discuss “cutting-edge bioethical issues”.

This article referred to the MAiD House in Toronto, a place that was established for individuals seeking an assisted death who wanted to die in a safe and comfortable environment. Many individuals do not want to die in a hospital or at home and tragically many are forced to leave faith-based health facilities that will not allow the process to occur on their premises. There are also people from diverse cultural backgrounds whose communities may not support their decision to seek an assisted death and they feel they have nowhere to go to die and be cared for without judgement.

So, what was it that I read that upset me so greatly and why was I so affected?

The author of the article described the MAiD process as “It is relatively quick. A patient arrives, is killed, and an unmarked car arrives to take away the body”. Last year Anne Bunning* and I were afforded the privilege of visiting the ‘MAiD House’ in Toronto. We were both profoundly affected by the respectful, tranquil, and homely environment that had been created for not only those seeking the MAiD process but also for their family and friends who wished to accompany them throughout their final day.

The ‘MAiD House’ is run by a team of volunteers, there is no cost for the individual who seeks MAiD, and government funding is not provided. The MAiD process is referred to, by the author as being ‘relatively quick’ and hence the inference is drawn that this is an “in and out” type process. Quite to the contrary, for an entire day the house becomes solely the ‘home’ of the individual seeking MAiD and their loved ones. After the death of the individual, that loved somebody, referred to as ‘some body’, leaves the ‘MAiD House’ accompanied by the funeral directors. This is not a covert operation necessitating the use of an “unmarked” car and shrouded in secrecy!

Anne and I met with two volunteers, such beautiful, gracious, and incredibly compassionate individuals who had been involved in the establishment of the house. The thought and detail that had gone into creating such a warm and safe environment, in which people could die, was overwhelming. Anne and I left with a strong feeling of profound reverence and felt humbled by the extraordinary and selfless individuals who volunteered their time so that they could make the last day in an individual’s life peaceful and loving.

And that is why I reacted so viscerally to the callous and brutal description of the ‘MAiD House’. I have absolutely no respect for anyone who sets out, with intent, to denigrate and tarnish the goodwill and far-reaching impact achieved by such beautiful individuals.

*Anne Bunning is Vice President of Voluntary Assisted Dying South Australia (VADSA) and Secretary of the World Federation Right to Die Societies (WFRtDS)

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