La Maison Simons, commonly known as Simons, is a prominent Canadian fashion retailer. In late October it released a three-minute film: a moody, watery, mystical tribute. Its subject was the suicide of a 37-year-old British Columbia woman, Jennyfer Hatch, who was approved for what Canadian law calls “Medical Assistance in Dying” amid suffering associated with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a group of disorders that affect the body’s connective tissues.
In an interview quoted in Canada’s National Post, the chief merchant of Simons stated that the film was “obviously not a commercial campaign.” Instead it was a signifier of a public-spirited desire to “build the communities that we want to live in tomorrow, and leave to our children.”
For those communities and children, the video’s message is clear: They should believe in the holiness of euthanasia.
In recent years, Canada has established some of the world’s most permissive euthanasia laws, allowing adults to seek either physician-assisted suicide or direct euthanasia for many different forms of serious suffering, not just terminal disease. In 2021, over 10,000 people ended their lives this way, just over 3 percent of all deaths in Canada. A further expansion, allowing euthanasia for mental-health conditions, will go into effect in March 2023; permitting euthanasia for “mature” minors is also being considered.
In the era of populism there is a lively debate about when a democracy ceases to be liberal. But the advance of euthanasia presents a different question: What if a society remains liberal but ceases to be civilized?
The rules of civilization necessarily include gray areas. It is not barbaric for the law to acknowledge hard choices in end-of-life care, about when to withdraw life support or how aggressively to manage agonizing pain.
It is barbaric, however, to establish a bureaucratic system that offers death as a reliable treatment for suffering and enlists the healing profession in delivering this “cure.” And while there may be worse evils ahead, this isn’t a slippery slope argument: When 10,000 people are availing themselves of your euthanasia system every year, you have already entered the dystopia.