Canadian funeral homes have begun offering rooms where ‘consenting people’ can take their own lives through assisted suicide. Assisted suicide, or euthanasia, has been legal in Canada since 2016, and the Canadian senate recently voted to expand access to physician assisted suicide to non-terminally ill people.
In February, a controversial amendment was passed allowing people suffering from mental illness to make advance requests to be euthanized, in effect extending assisted suicide to those who are not believed to be near death.
Rates of euthanasia have grown dramatically since its legalisation five years ago. In 2016, just over 1,000 assisted deaths were reported in Canada. By 2020, that number had soared to just under 7,600, an increase of 660 per cent. With that rapid increase, the euthanasia industry in Canada has been expanding expeditiously. Now, funeral homes are able to offer an all-in-one package – death, wake, burial – thanks to the country’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) protocol.
US pro-life organisation Live Action, described the arrangement as “ghoulish.“
“One ghoulish new endeavour is driving home just how extreme (Canada) has become” when it comes to embracing euthanasia, the group said. It pointed out that the rooms are being added to funeral homes “so they can be a one-stop shop” for those feeling suicidal. Campaign Life Coalition, a Canadian organisation advocating for “legal and cultural change in Canada with respect to protecting human life and family,” said that funeral homes “have effectively become execution centres” thanks to the euthanasia law.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported this week that families are asking funeral homes to offer MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) rooms so their relatives can die, and then have the body immediately available for burial or cremation. Paul Needham, who owns Northview Funeral Chapel in London, Ontario, told CBC News that he had been receiving so many calls to provide a place for people to be killed by assisted suicide that he finally decided to take advantage of the opportunity.
Almost half of deaths by euthanasia in Canada (46.7 per cent in 2020) take place at home while hospitals (28 per cent) and palliative care facilities like hospices (17 per cent) are also common. According to Needham, people dying by euthanasia don’t want to die in the clinical setting of a hospital, but they also don’t want to die in their homes, so he was ready to step in.
He began offering rooms for rent at his funeral home where the old and the sick could come to be killed, either by their own hand, or, more commonly, with the assistance of a doctor or nurse. In the last year alone, Needham’s funeral home has facilitated the killing of 23 sick and old people.
“Family members can be right there with their loved ones,” Needham told CBC News. “I suggest they can make it how they want it, bring some of your favourite music, bring flowers, bring some food or if you like, bring a bottle of wine. This is this person’s last day on Earth. You want to take everything into account and consider as many things as possible.
David Mullen, who owns A. Millard George Funeral Home in Ontario, has also noticed the trend and has converted his former casket showroom into a decorated assisted suicide room where friends and family members can be with the victim during his or her death. Mullen hopes to have everything up in running by the new year.
Darcy Harris, professor of thanatology (study of death and dying) at King’s University College in Ontario, said that this next step for funeral homes makes sense: “Funeral homes are usually very nicely appointed and the staff are service-orientated and are comfortable talking about death,” she told CBC News.
However, Pete Baklinski for Campaign Life Coalition, said that while assisted suicide is now legal in Canada, that “certainly does not make it right or moral” and said that as a society, we will be judged on how we treated our most vulnerable.
“Euthanasia and assisted suicide, no matter how pretty the room and how flowery the legal language that surrounds it, is the deliberate killing of the sick and elderly.” Baklinski continued: “Western nations are founded on the belief that life is sacred and no one but God alone has the right to take life. The fifth Commandment prohibiting murder is a pillar of western law and democracy that has been eroded by abortion and now euthanasia. Nations that allow some citizens to kill other innocent citizens, for whatever reason, have collapsed morally. A collapse of morality can only result in social anarchy and the eventual collapse of that nation.”
He also said that funeral homes should be places where our loved ones should be remembered and honoured, and that they should not be transformed into “execution sites” for the sick.
“Funeral homes are supposed to be places where our beloved dead can be remembered, honoured, and given our last respects prior to burial. They should never become execution sites for the sick, elderly, and those suffering with mental illness, who have been misinformed that euthanasia is a solution to their problems. Killing vulnerable people, no matter what the reason, is always wrong and against God’s law.
“What the sick and the elderly need are relationship, love, and compassionate care, not someone deliberately cutting their life short. Funeral homes should stick with the honourable work of burying the dead, which is a true work of mercy, not facilitating the killing of vulnerable people.
“A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. Did we care for them, or kill them?”
Predictably, since the heralding in of assisted suicide, the number of people dying this way is increasing every year, as reported here by Health Canada. It is a trend that is likely <https://www.liveaction.org/news/canada-euthanasia-report-implications-disabilities/> to worsen, with less than one third of requests being turned down (and 34 per cent of people being euthanized less than ten days after making their request).
In the UK, the government continues to grapple with the issue as a private member’s bill is currently being debated in the house of Lords. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently joined the Chief Rabbi, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the most senior Roman Catholic cardinal in Britain in opposing the private member’s bill, describing assisted suicide as “a slippery slope.”
Meanwhile, in Ireland, whilst assisted suicide also remains illegal, some politicians have been pushing for a change to the law.