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“You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13)
What comes to mind when you think of the word “maid?” You probably think of a paid helper, one who does dirty work you would rather not do. However, you do not think of your maid killing someone. If that happens, an unexpected homicide has occurred. Since 2016, over 30,000 homicides have occurred in Canada, at the hands of another MAID.1 Given secular trends, MAID (or something like it) may be coming to America as well.
The New MAID
Meet the new maid, who is a murderer. It is called MAID (sometimes rendered as MAiD). It stands for Medical Assistance in Dying and it allows physicians to euthanize people, thousands of people made in the image of God. This is a Canadian medical protocol, which went into effect in June of 2016 when the Parliament of Canada passed federal legislation allowing eligible Canadian adults to request medical assistance in dying.2 I heard much about this program and its horrendous results when I was in Toronto to speak at the Christian Medical and Dental Association of Canada (CMDA) annual conference, held at Wycliffe College on the historic and beautiful University of Toronto campus. But there is nothing beautiful about MAID; it is ugly and evil. However, it can be explained by historical developments.
The Secular Way of Medical Murder
Although Canada is a deeply secular and leftist country, God still has His believing and faithful remnant, and I met many of them at the CMDA conference. The executive director of the CMDA, Larry Worthen, described Canada to me politically as “America with only the Democratic party.” As such, it has progressively distanced itself politically from any Judeo-Christian heritage derived from England or the United States. In 1988, for example, it dropped any restrictions on abortion.3 Since then, four million babies have been legally aborted in a nation of about 39 million.4 At first, MAID was offered as a supposedly compassionate way for people with terminal and agonizing illnesses to have their life ended by a doctor. But it opened a door for inhumanity, especially for the disabled. In 2019, Justin Trudeau, the ultra-liberal Prime Minister of Canada, said that no one would be able to choose assisted death “because you’re not getting the supports and cares that you actually need.”5 It has not worked out that way, of course. In March of 2021, the law expanded so that one no longer needed “a reasonably foreseeable natural death,” as the original wording put it, to qualify for MAID.6
Journalist Alexander Raikin reports that “Every single day in 2021, which was the last year that we have data, more than twenty-seven Canadians died by the hands of their physicians or nurses. And that’s double the rate of unassisted suicide.”7 People suffering from non-terminal diseases and basic life problems are now encouraged to use MAID. Raikin further notes:
A number of recent news articles have reported on Canadians who, driven by poverty and a lack of access to adequate health care, housing, and social services, have turned to the country’s euthanasia system. In multiple cases, veterans requesting help from Veterans Affairs Canada — at least one asked for PTSD treatment, another for a ramp for her wheelchair — were asked by case workers if they would like to apply for euthanasia.8
Let me repeat: Over 30,000 Canadians have been put to death legally by medical doctors in Canada since 2016. Let that sink in. That is the size of a small town. As Christians, moreover, we must never forget that death is our entry point into eternity and one must be prepared to face God by knowing Christ as Lord, because “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27; see John 3:16–18; Romans 5:1–8).9
Moreover, these deaths are procured legally and by physicians. Historically, physicians have considered their calling to “do no harm” and to assist their patients in correcting illness and in being healthy. This is part of the ancient Hippocratic tradition.10 When physicians administer lethal doses of poison to their “patients,” something has radically gone wrong. The reasons for MAID have expanded far beyond “death with dignity” for those terminally ill. But even in these cases, it is morally wrong for someone to induce the death of another person, since that violates God’s command not to murder (Exodus 20:13).
In a session on euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide at the CMDA conference, I said, “In America, we have strong opinions about legal matters — whether we know what we are talking about or not. I’m told you Canadians are ‘nicer,’ and not too outspoken. I’m told that you tend to trust your civil government. Do you think that, given MAID, you might need to become more outspoken, more like Americans? Damn right!”
There Are No Safeguards
We should not be surprised that MAID is now taking so many lives, even though Canadians were assured that “safeguards” would be in place. There are no safeguards when the decision has been made that some human beings, who have committed no crimes and are not combatants in warfare, have lives not worthy of being lived. If so, the value of life becomes subjective and determined by society, instead of the Creator of human life, God Himself. This God, it is worth repeating, has commanded, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). It is not reactionary or cliché to note that this relativist mentality was the exact one that drove the Nazi holocaust, which began by putting to death the infirm and the undesirable before reaching the Jews.11 We must never forget that six million (6,000,000) Jews were murdered by the Nazis because their lives were deemed not worthy to be lived. The Nazis forced their euthanasia on people, but the Canadians are, for now, only encouraging it. However, it will likely move from voluntary to involuntary, if a distressed person is deemed to have no sanctify of life and no competence to make his own choice. Some are advocating MAID for infants. National Post reported that “Dr. Louis Roy, from the Quebec College of Physicians, told the Commons’ Special Joint Committee of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)…that his organization believes MAID can be appropriate for infants up to age one who are born with ‘severe malformations’ and ‘grave and severe syndromes’ for which their ‘prospective of survival is null, so to speak.’”12 Of course, with infants, no consent can be given, so euthanasia with consent, the original meaning of the law, evolves to adults sentencing infants to death because of their disabilities.
I became aware of this tragic and exigent reality of devaluing human life in America in 1979 when I read the book and saw the accompanying film series, Whatever Happened to the Human Race? featuring apologist, evangelist, theologian, and activist Francis Schaeffer and distinguished pediatric surgeon C. Everett Koop (who later became Surgeon General under President Ronald Reagan).13 They warned of the West’s descent into inhumanity given the secular consensus that human beings have no intrinsic worth endowed by God. If so, the value of human life is relative to social situations and changing patterns of law. In 1979, about six million babies had been legally aborted in the United States, and the authors warned of the normalizing of infanticide as well. They were correct. Although Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022,14 pro-abortion states, such as my own state, Colorado, in the United States allow abortion up until birth and do not require aid be given to babies born alive.15 They also warned of “euthanasia for the elderly,” but did not even foresee the kind of euthanasia now practiced in Canada that includes far more than the aged suffering from terminal illnesses.
President Ronald Reagan identified the problem in the early 1980s: “Every legislator, every doctor, and every citizen needs to recognize that the real issue is whether to affirm and protect the sanctity of all human life, or to embrace a social ethic where some human lives are valued and others are not. As a nation, we must choose between the sanctity of life ethic and the ‘quality of life’ ethic.”16
It is inevitable that once you believe that human life is of only relative value, you open the door to murder. Murder, by God’s standards, is the unjust killing of an innocent human being who poses no threat to you personally.17 But if anyone kills another human being without warrant of self-defense, capital punishment, or military sanction, that killing is murder. It is a grievous sin before God. Consider the first murder of Abel by his brother, Cain. After Cain’s murder, God said that the blood of Abel cried out to God from the ground of creation. Bloodshed has its voice with God, the God who hears and who responds. “The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand’” (Genesis 4:10–11).
We must listen to God’s judgment on murder, for He is still speaking. It matters not if this murder is legally sanctioned or if it is administered by physicians, whose calling is to help and not harm, to preserve life and not to end it artificially. It matters not if a person wants a physician to murder him or her. Murder is murder, and it must be opposed, come what may. Murder is killing God in effigy because human beings bear the divine image. We did not evolve from mere matter through chance and natural law. We were made in the image of God Himself — personal beings made in God’s personal image. As such, we have a unique and incomparable value.
The disability community and disability advocacy groups have rightly opposed MAID for obvious reasons. Their message is that disabled people need equal access to facilities and jobs, should not be discriminated against because of their disabilities (except where pertinent),18 and should be welcomed as full members of their communities without stigma. God tells us, “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:14).
MAID, on the contrary, allows or even encourages them to be euthanized, and so flies in the face of the whole disability rights movement. Tim Stainton, a professor of social work at the University of British Columbia, wrote that in light of social workers’ general concern for the marginalized, it was
Strange then that when a piece of legislation was recently passed that was near universally opposed by Canadian disability rights and disabled persons organizations, including BIPOC, Indigenous disability organizations and Women’s disability organizations, and condemned by two UN Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Disabled Persons (the UN Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Older Persons and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights), not a peep was heard from social workers or virtually any other social justice group.19
This silence on the injustice of MAID reveals not only an inconsistency among the organizations listed by Professor Stainton, but to forsake those who have despaired of life and to encourage them to die is a violation of Jesus’ injunction to care for “the least of these.” In His parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus declares:
Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:41–46)
As an American Christian, I have a riot of concerns for my country — abortion, infanticide, gender ideology, increasing crime and drug abuse, a broken southern border, the rise of satanism, an outbreak of homelessness, the need to reach the lost with the gospel, and more. Yet while visiting Toronto for the CMDA conference, I felt the urgency of Canada’s euthanasia crisis and the challenges that Christian physicians face, since they may be called to make referrals for MAID. They are working to secure adequate conscience rights to refuse such referrals — in addition to referrals for abortion and gender transition surgeries.
The United State may well copy its neighbor by adopting liberal euthanasia policies unless sufficient resistance is brought to bear. Canada has killed four million babies through abortion, and America has killed its tens of millions (over sixty million and counting since the legalization of abortion in 197320). Given our wanton disregard for the objective value of human life in the womb, why not start killing people who want to die? If their lives have no intrinsic worth, and if a physician killing a compliant patient is not considered murder, there is nothing to hold back this death-dealing rationale. Doctor-assisted suicide is already legal in Colorado, California, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.21 It is an option given to individuals in Montana through a court decision.22 In Colorado, Proposition 106 passed in 2016. The Colorado End-of-Life Options Act allows qualified terminally ill patients “within six months to receive a prescription from a willing licensed physician for medication that can be self-administered to bring about death.”23
Doctor-assisted suicide differs from euthanasia in that the doctor prescribes a lethal drug but does not administer it. That is left to the patient. The numbers say that people are far more willing to have euthanasia administered than to take the poison themselves, perhaps because of the aura of medical propriety that attends euthanasia. For example, California legalized doctor-assisted suicide on June 9, 2016, with its End of Life Options Act. Through December 31, 2021, 2,422 people committed doctor-assisted suicide in California.24 Compare that with the over 30,000 Canadians who have chosen euthanasia since 2016. California has roughly 38 million residents. Canada has roughly 39 million residents. These numbers reveal the popularity of euthanasia over doctor-assisted suicide. This is likely because there is still a social sigma against suicide. But being killed by euthanasia may seem more humane when administered by a physician, who is typically viewed as a helping, high-skilled professional.
America and Euthanasia
Given these secular trends and the psychology favoring euthanasia over doctor-assisted suicide, I fear that something like MAID may emerge in America. The abomination of doctor-assisted suicide has already arrived. If it does, thousands of innocent image-bearers of God would be put to death legally and voluntarily. That would be nothing less than murder by medicine, which is an abhorrence to God and blight on any society that adopts it.
In 2018, the Gallup organization released the results of a poll:
A broad majority of Americans, 72%, continue to believe that doctors should be legally allowed, at a patient’s and a family’s request, to end a terminally ill patient’s life using painless means. While support for legalized euthanasia is strong across nearly all subgroups of Americans, men, young adults, Democrats and liberals are especially likely to favor it. Support drops below a majority only among weekly churchgoers.25
By contrast, Gallup reports that in 1947 and 1950, “fewer than four in 10 supported legally and painlessly ending a terminally ill patient’s life.”26 The Gallup finding speaks of ending a “terminally ill patient’s life,” but the Canadian example demonstrates that allowing euthanasia at all will open the door to euthanizing people for many far less extreme reasons. The reasoning is simple. Given the secularity of American culture in general and American medicine in particular, the only values that hold sway are (1) personal autonomy and (2) the avoidance of suffering. While both principles are significant for moral evaluation in medical decisions, neither are moral absolutes and both lack the principle of the sanctify of human life before the face of God. Let us consider each.
Autonomy: Because human beings have objective value, irrespective of their subjective estimation, what a person wants for herself (autonomy) may, in fact, be wrong. Suicide, the use of illegal drugs, and prostitution are all morally wrong, despite the autonomy of the one involved. The old Frank Sinatra lyric, “I did it my way,” is not a sufficient moral justification for anything.
Avoidance of suffering: Our fallen world is wracked by emotional and physical pain, and we do much to remove or alleviate both. However, while suffering is something to be minimized, suffering does not justify killing an innocent human being. In certain cases, animals may “be put out of their misery,” simply because they are animals, who do not bear the divine image. Human beings occupy a different category. Moreover, brave people can find meaning in suffering and be a blessing to those who serve them.
My deepest fear that America may follow Canada down the slope into rampant euthanasia is our anti-natalism, which is expressed in several ways. Anti-natalism is the hatred of human life. Since human beings are not esteemed as being made in God’s image, they are expendable, and there is no reason to bring them into the world. Nothing could be more anti-natal than abortion, but consider America’s declining birth rates, increasing drug addictions and overdoses, increasing suicides, and “gender transitions” that mutilate and render men and women sterile for life. While God calls us to life, the hatred of God means the love of death. God called His ancient people to life, and He calls us as well. “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
There is but one alternative, as spoken by the divine Wisdom:
For those who find me find life
and receive favor from the Lord.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:35–36)
Legalizing and incentivizing euthanasia is nothing less than the love of death. Let us encourage our Canadian friends in their resistance to euthanasia and let us make sure that MAID does not come knocking on our hospital doors.
Douglas Groothuis is Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary. Among his many books are Fire in the Streets: How You Can Confidently Respond to Incendiary Cultural Topics (Salem Books, 2022) and Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, 2nd ed. (IVP Academic, 2022).
- “Third Annual Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada 2021,” Health Canada, Government of Canada, updated January 9, 2023, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/medical-assistance-dying/annual-report-2021.html#a3.
- “Medical Assistance in Dying,” Health Canada, Government of Canada, updated June 1, 2023, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/medical-assistance-dying.html. Editor’s note: For a treatment of the ethical distinctions between passive and active euthanasia, see the two-part series by the philosopher J. P. Moreland, “The Euthanasia Debate: Understanding the Issues,” Christian Research Journal 14, no. 03 (1992), https://www.equip.org/articles/the-euthanasia-debate-part-one-understanding-the-issues/; and “The Euthanasia Debate: Assessing the Options,” Christian Research Journal 14, no. 04 (1992), https://www.equip.org/articles/the-euthanasia-debate-part-two-assessing-the-options/.
- R v. Morgentaler,  1 SCR 30, Supreme Court of Canada, Lexum.com, accessed June 21, 2023, https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/288/index.do.
- See Wm. Robert Johnston, “Historical Abortion Statistics, Canada,” updated April 16, 2023, https://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/ab-canada.html.
- Justin Trudeau quoted in The Canadian Press, “Trudeau Says He Would Look at Ways to Improve Medical Assistance in Dying Law,” CBC, October 3, 2019, https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-medical-assistance-dying-euthanasia-1.5307408.
- Department of Justice Canada, “New Medical Assistance in Dying Legislation Becomes Law: News Release,” Government of Canada, March 17, 2021, https://www.canada.ca/en/department-justice/news/2021/03/new-medical-assistance-in-dying-legislation-becomes-law.html; see “Medical Assistance in Dying,” Government of Canada, updated June 1, 2023, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/medical-assistance-dying.html; and “Legislative Background: Bill C-7: Government of Canada’s Legislative Response to the Superior Court of Québec Truchon Decision: Part III — Safeguards for MAID,” Government of Canada, updated September 1, 2021, https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/pl/ad-am/c7/p4.html.
- Alexander Raikin, in The PloughCast, “48: Canada’s Euthanasia Industry,” Generations, Part 6, February 21, 2023, https://www.plough.com/en/topics/life/aging/canadas-euthanasia-industry.
- Alexander Raikin, “No Other Options,” The New Atlantis, Winter 2023, https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/no-other-options.
- Scripture quotations are from the NIV.
- Linda S. Dugdale, “Bring Back Hippocrates,” Plough, October 7, 2022, https://www.plough.com/en/topics/community/education/bring-back-hippocrates.
- Francis A. Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop, “Death by Someone’s Choice,” Whatever Happened to the Human Race? rev. ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1983), 54–77. For a recent examination of this topic, see Charles C. Camosy, Losing Our Dignity: How Secularized Medicine Is Undermining Fundamental Human Equality (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2021).
- Catherine Lévesque, “Quebec College of Physicians Slammed for Suggesting MAID for Severely Ill Newborns,” National Post, October 11, 2022, https://nationalpost.com/news/quebec-college-of-physicians-slammed-for-suggesting-maid-for-severely-ill-newborns.
- Schaeffer and Koop, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?
- Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 597 U.S. ____ (2022), Majority Opinion Justice Samuel Alito, https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/19-1392_6j37.pdf.
- “HB22-1279: Reproductive Health Equity Act,” Colorado General Assembly, 2022 Regular Session, accessed June 21, 2023, https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb22-1279.
- Ronald Reagan, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation (Sacramento, CA: New Regency Publishing, 1984) 48, Kindle Edition.
- I claim that the killing of human beings may be justified in matters of self-defense, in capital punishment for murderers, and in killing the enemy in just wars. See the relevant chapters on the death penalty, war, and gun control in Scott Rae, Moral Choices, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018).
- One legitimate area of discrimination is seating near an emergency exit of an airplane. One must be able to discharge the physical and mental exertions needed to open the door in an emergency.
- Tim Stainton, “Social Justice’s Poor Cousin: Disability, MAiD and Social Work,” The Social Lens: A Social Work Action Blog, October 7, 2021, University of British Columbia School of Social Work, https://socialwork.ubc.ca/news/social-justices-poor-cousin-disability-maid-and-social-work.
- “Abortion Statistics: United States Data and Trends,” National Right to Life Educational Foundation, January 2022, https://www.nrlc.org/uploads/factsheets/FS01AbortionintheUS.pdf.
- CNN Editorial Research, “Physician-Assisted Suicide Facts,” CNN, updated May 29, 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2014/11/26/us/physician-assisted-suicide-fast-facts/index.html.
- CNN Editorial Research, “Physician-Assisted Suicide Facts.”
- Erica Meltzer, “Proposition 106 in Colorado: What You Need to Know about Medical Aid in Dying,” Denverite, October 24, 2016, https://denverite.com/2016/10/24/proposition-106-colorado-need-know-medical-aid-dying/; “Medical Aid in Dying,” Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, accessed June 21, 2023, https://cdphe.colorado.gov/center-for-health-and-environmental-data/registries-and-vital-statistics/medical-aid-in-dying#.
- “California End of Life Option Act 2021 Data Report,” July 2022, California Department of Public Health, https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHSI/CDPH%20Document%20Library/CDPH_End_of_Life%20_Option_Act_Report_2021_FINAL.pdf.
- Megan Brenan, “Americans’ Strong Support for Euthanasia Persists,” Gallup, May 31, 2018, https://news.gallup.com/poll/235145/americans-strong-support-euthanasia-persists.aspx.
- Brenan, “Americans’ Strong Support for Euthanasia Persists.”