Canadian bioethicists: ‘Poverty justifies euthanasia’

Being poor is sufficient reason for people to be allowed to undergo assisted suicide, an academic paper has argued.

In an article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Canadian bioethicists Professor Amy Mullin and Kayla Wiebe said assisted suicide “should be available” for people “in unjust social circumstances”.

Canada legalised euthanasia in certain circumstances in 2016, but has already abolished the requirement for a person to be terminally ill and intends to extend it to those who suffer from mental health problems from 2024.

‘A lesser evil’

The University of Toronto academics wrote that it was “unacceptable” to expect people to wait for difficult social circumstances to improve, rather than letting them choose to be killed by a medic.

The authors rejected the notion that “the autonomy of people choosing death in the context of injustice” may be undermined by a sense of despair.

Allowing people in poverty to opt for euthanasia was an “imperfect” solution, they admitted, but was “a ‘lesser evil’ between two or more less than ideal options”.

The authors rejected the notion that “the autonomy of people choosing death in the context of injustice” may be undermined by a sense of despair.

They also suggested that the provision of better palliative care for vulnerable people rather than euthanising them was ‘mere paternalism’, “overriding the decisions of competent people whose suffering has led them to choose to die”.


Canadian Yuan Yi Zhu, a research fellow at the University of Oxford, described the idea of assisting people to kill themselves simply because they are poor as “a moral stain on our country”.

And Canadian-born Professor Kevin Yuill, Chief Executive of Humanists Against Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, said the article highlights just how “irrational the case for euthanasia has become”.

According to official Government statistics, the number of deaths attributed to euthanasia in Canada more than tripled between 2017 and 2021.

a moral stain on our country


In March, UK MPs were warned that legalising assisted suicide would undermine the culture of caring for the vulnerable.

Speaking to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Baroness Hollins said everyone needs to know they will “be directed to the right support”, but introducing assisted suicide would change the “culture, the attitude and everything”.

The Committee is currently hearing evidence about assisted suicide, including on access to palliative care and the role of medics.


Earlier this month, Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic and Muslim leaders warned the Scottish Parliament that legalising assisted suicide would be “extremely detrimental” to the vulnerable.

Speaking ahead of an event considering Liam McArthur MSP’s proposed assisted suicide Bill, the Church of Scotland’s Moderator Rt Revd Dr Iain Greenshields, Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland Bishop John Keenan and Imam Shaykh Khandwalla signed a joint statement opposing the proposals.

McArthur’s Assisted Dying (Scotland) Bill, which is expected to be drafted by the end of the year, seeks to allow residents aged 16 or over and deemed to be terminally ill to be prescribed drugs to kill themselves.

Also see:

Medics in Canada tell bed-ridden man to opt for assisted suicide or face huge medical bills

Canadian doctor who euthanised over 400 people boasts about man unable to consent

Canada: Medical body wants euthanasia for newborns

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