A Quebec funeral home is renting out a private room for people to partake in doctor-assisted suicide – at a minimum cost of $700.
The cost is not for the euthanasia procedure, which is covered by Quebec’s medical insurance, but for the dedicated space featuring couches, candles, plants and artworks. Patients come to the home with their physician.
The funeral home’s new offering comes amid euthanasia deaths exploding in the province, going from 63 in 2015-2016 to 3663 in 2021-2022. Quebec is now the jurisdiction with the highest proportion of assisted suicides in Canada. Last year, Quebec spent almost $6 million on assisted suicide.
In an interview with CBC News, Complexe funeraire Haut-Richelieu owner Mathieu Baker said his “first in Quebec” assisted suicide service fills a current gap amid the fact that some people do not want to be euthanized at home or at a hospital.
“It is a very personal act that should be respected and done properly,” said Baker, who added that his business offers customized arrangements to people wishing to end their life.
“Do you want to watch a movie? Do you want a glass of wine? Some people want to be in groups of four or five, and we’ve had groups of up to 30 people.”
Quebec newspaper La Presse documented some of the assisted suicides that have taken place in the funeral home’s rentable room.
One family gathered in the room on a Wednesday at 10:15am over coffee and pastries to say goodbye to a loved one. Then at 11:30am, a physician-administered euthanasia to the 78-year-old patient, and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah played as the man took his last breath.
Another woman, who was euthanized in the funeral home’s room, first shared a pizza with her daughter and an employee of the home. They then watched Maléfique featuring Angelina Jolie and then had a final cigarette before a doctor gave her euthanasia.
A man whose father-in-law was euthanized at the funeral home told CBC he was satisfied with the experience, saying, “it was a very nice room. It allowed us the time we needed to do what we had to do to say goodbye. Let him get comfortable.”
The funeral home takes charge of handling the deceased body, noting that it has necessary installations on site.
When asked about the funeral home’s new offering and the explosion of medically assisted deaths in Quebec, Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada Executive Director Mike Schouten told True North that “as safeguards continue to be relaxed, and as euthanasia is offered as an easy and normalized solution to suffering, it is tragic but unsurprising that others desire to profit, including funeral homes.”
“In only seven years Canada has secured one of the most expansive euthanasia and assisted suicide regimes in the entire world,” added Schouten. “Canadians must continue to advocate for helping others to live well, rather than further normalizing assisted death.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Claude Rivard, who offers euthanasia to eligible patients, described the latter as a business occasion. “There is a market in Quebec. In 2021-2022, about 5% of deaths were through medical assistance in dying. There is a craze for this mode of end of life,” he told La Presse.
A spokesperson for Quebec’s minister responsible for seniors Sonia Belanger told CBC that the province is now looking at the legality of funeral homes offering assisted suicide services.
“Several questions may arise, and we will take the time to validate,” the spokesperson told Canada’s state broadcaster. “The important thing is to put people’s wishes first, while ensuring that the proposals are not part of a monetization of the practice.”
As for the funeral home owner, he admitted that his own mother was opposed to the idea. “She didn’t talk to me for a month. She didn’t agree. That her son was doing this in the family business, it came to her,” he told La Presse.
The Commission on End-of-Life Care says the rapid rise in assisted suicides can be attributed to the removal of end-of-life and forcible death as criteria needed for euthanasia.
Both the Quebec and Canadian governments have sought to expand assisted suicide. The Quebec government tabled a bill earlier this year that would allow people to give “advanced consent” for euthanasia, while the federal government is set to legalize euthanasia for mental illness next year – as part of Bill C-7, which expanded access to assisted deaths.
Some Quebec euthanasia advocates have called for even more expansions, with the Quebec College of Physicians having proposed euthanasia be given to critically ill babies and “mature minors” aged 14-17, with the consent of their parents.
A recent poll found that among Canadians, Quebecers are the most supportive of the current “status quo” on doctor-assisted suicides.