Medical assistance in dying: A gendered issue in Canada?


  • Freya Hammond-Thrasher Department of Sociology, University of Alberta



Medical assistance in dying (MAiD) remains a controversial topic in Canada despite its legalization in 2015. Opponents of MAiD legislation often cite ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’ arguments which emphasize the value of human life. While all eligible adults are currently able to request MAiD, scholars, citizens, and religious organizations have expressed concerns that women, as a marginalized group, are at risk to request assisted dying due to gendered circumstances rather than personal choice. My research investigates the claim that women’s lives are threatened by MAiD legislation and analyzes the ways in which MAiD is a gendered issue. Drawing from seventeen academic, government, and grey literature sources, I identify and challenge three key discursive categories used to present women as vulnerable under MAiD legislation. I argue that opponents of MAiD legislation co-opt feminist discourses to make normative claims which resonate with the values of individualism in Canadian liberal democratic society. In doing so, opponents of MAiD reproduce the same gender issues they claim to oppose and risk endangering women’s access to MAiD in Canada. I conclude with recommendations relevant to the next stage of MAiD legislation in Canada, which will debate whether other populations considered to be vulnerable, including mature minors and people with mental illness, will have access to MAiD.






Social Sciences & Humanities