A woman in Canada has been legally euthanized, not because she was dying, but because she was depressed over her loneliness. Ninety-year-old Nancy Russell had been living in a nursing home, and had few visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seemingly with the blessing of her family, Russell chose to be euthanized.
Russell’s daughter, Tory, spoke to CTV News about her mother’s decision to kill herself. “Being mobile was everything to my mom,” she said. “My mother was extremely curious, and she was very interested in every person she met and every idea that she came across so she was constantly reading, going to different shows and talks. [She] was frequently talking about people she met and their life stories, very curious, open minded. So for 90, she was exceptional.”
Russell became depressed about her life situation, but the first doctor she applied with refused to support her request. “My mom told me he said to her, you’ve got too much to live for,” Tory said. But Russell persisted; according to Tory, another factor in her decision to die was wanting to be able to kill herself before the pandemic or her health took that option away.
“She would always say, the COVID is in charge, you know, no matter what the politicians say, the virus is in charge,” Tory said. “That did hasten her desire to apply for medical assistance in dying, and another factor for her is the fact that medical assistance and dying legislation is a work in progress, and she wanted very much to be sure that she could apply while she had all her marbles, so to speak, so that she could provide that consent.”
Euthanasia advocates complained earlier this year after some Canadian hospitals refused to commit assisted suicide during the pandemic, ruling it non-essential. With a second wave of the virus surging, doctors and hospitals may again decide that killing people doesn’t take precedence when they’re in the midst of trying to save lives.
Russell’s case is reminiscent of another elderly woman who was also euthanized because she was elderly and lonely. Oriella Cazzanello, an 85-year-old Italian woman, paid €10,000 to be killed at Dignitas because she was depressed, afraid of “losing her looks,” and lonely. Numerous studies have found that this is why many people request assisted suicide. Most people are not afraid of a long or painful death, but studies published in prestigious publications like the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal found that they frequently feel hopeless or fight depression. Others have little support or are afraid of being a burden to their families. When these these issues are addressed, the request to die is often withdrawn.
As assisted suicide spreads across the globe, it seems inevitable that more people like Russell will be allowed to die simply because they feel alone.
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