Understanding MAID and the 2SLGBTQIA+ experience
News & Updates | November 10, 2023 | Tiana Dargent
Since launching Queer Death Salons at the start of 2023, I have received innumerable requests for sessions pertaining to MAID. The questions I received can be covered under the following broad examples:
“My situation isn’t clearly defined by the current or upcoming guidelines; how can I be sure I can access MAID when I want to?”
“What is the experience of people seeking MAID?”
“How can I process the death of a loved one who accessed MAID?”
“How is MAID an ethical offering when so many life-saving social programs are underfunded and inaccessible?”
Given the breadth of these topic requests, I elected to run a three-part series:
- A space for 2SLGBTQIA+ people who’ve had loved ones choose MAID.
- A space for 2SLGBTQIA+ people who have or are planning to choose MAID for themselves.
- A space for 2SLGBTQIA+ people to discuss MAID in the context of insufficient social infrastructure.
This piece is based on the learnings and themes shared in the first group, grievers who had a loved one (or multiple people) who chose MAID.
Since its inception in 2016, MAID in Canada has been available to people with a reasonably foreseeable death and has since been expanded to allow people whose death is not immediately foreseeable to access it. In 2022, MAID accounted for 4% of all deaths in Canada, a 30% jump from 2021, and is expected to rise as education spreads and access becomes less limited. Although Canada’s annual reporting on MAID shares a great amount of data, there is no data shared which indicates the number of MAID deaths in cultural or affinity groups, and as such, we don’t have a clear idea of how the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is affected.*
It was clear within moments of opening up this space, that there is a severe need for grief groups specifically for people who’ve had a loved one choose MAID. This need will continue to be present as more and more people are affected by MAID losses. People are having experiences related to these deaths which are not typical in many other deaths and desire a space to share with other people who understand what they have been through. As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, it is doubly imperative that 2SLGBTQIA+ people have a space for ourselves to share our unique perspectives.
Some of the unique circumstances surrounding a MAID death include:
- Being chosen to be part of the end-of-life care team vs not knowing about the MAID choice until after death (and all the possibilities in between). How do we reconcile our feelings about our (non)involvement?
- Supporting the choice for MAID vs being in disagreement with the choice for MAID. How do we deal with our loved one’s final choices with grace and compassion?
- Tireless advocacy for MAID access vs for other supports which would improve quality of life. How can the two complement one another?
- The similarities and differences for those who have experienced both MAID deaths, and death by suicide.
- How to best spend the time between MAID choice/approval and selected death date (both for supporters and those who disagree with the choice).
- Set and setting for a MAID death, how much flexibility is there for those of us who want queer deaths?
This is new terrain for us as a culture, and we are still in the beginning stages of supporting ourselves and each other in these situations. Having space to regularly come together and freely discuss the real implications of this type of death is an opportunity the queer community, and all communities, should be supported in, as we figure it out.
Tiana Dargent, of Queer Community Deathcare, offers training and consultation to end of life practitioners and organizations with the aim of removing roadblocks to equitable and culturally competent care.
* From the Health Canada website: Starting January 1, 2023, Health Canada requires health care professionals to collect additional information from people who request MAID. This includes information about a person’s gender, race, Indigenous identity and a person’s disabilities. This information will allow the Government of Canada to better understand the characteristics of people seeking MAID. It will also help to determine if there are any groups or populations that are disproportionately impacted in the context of MAID.