Homeless man seeks to end life through Canada's assisted suicide program

Patient seen in the hospital in this undated photo.
Patient seen in the hospital in this undated photo. | Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

An Ontario man experiencing homelessness and frustration over his life circumstances seeks to die through medically assisted suicide, claiming that dying through Canada's medical assistance in dying (MAID) program is the only option for him. 

Tyler Dunlop, 37, a healthy, able-bodied man, recently began the MAID process after visiting Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital. The man refused the hospital's offer to admit him for a psychiatric assessment, in addition to offers of food, water and shelter, to prove that he was serious about the decision. 

"I calmly explained it, in my right mind: I wasn't intoxicated or smoking dope or anything," Dunlop told Orillia Matters last week. "I just said I really think this would be the best decision for me. I've researched it. This is an informed decision. I'm not wasting your time."

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To complete the MAID process, Dunlop must obtain signatures from two different psychiatrists. He had his first appointment on Tuesday.

Dunlop said that he's trying to raise the issue of "equality," arguing that for some people without access to resources, assisted suicide is the only option. 

"I chose assisted dying because I know I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I've been in rehabilitation. I've accessed every resource possible to get better. Some of us can't."

The 37-year-old's housing struggles began in June 2022 after he found his roommate and work supervisor dead inside their apartment. The landlord gave Dunlop five days to move out, and since then, he's been trying to get his life back together. 

"The worst feeling is social isolation. People don't talk to you. They avoid you. They think you want something," he said, describing the situation as "unbearable." 

"When I read about medically assisted dying, I thought, well, logistically, I really don't have a future," the Dunlop said. 

The decision to pursue assisted suicide stems from a lifetime of trauma, according to Dunlop. Born into a dysfunctional family and having experienced both physical and sexual abuse in the foster care system, this is not the first time Dunlop has considered suicide. It's also not the first time he has experienced homelessness, as Dunlop admitted to having been without a home before in 2010. 

In addition, the man told Orillia Matters he suffers from schizoaffective disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder and that he has relied on alcohol as a coping mechanism for years. 

"I've worked in all kinds of industries and fields, photography, thrift stores, factories. I've always worked," he said. "I'm a loser, absolutely, but I do work. I do contribute to society on my days off: I get a garbage bag and gloves and I clean up garbage around Orillia."

While he recently started a job at a fast-food restaurant, a lack of stable housing has made it difficult for him to maintain employment. 

"How am I supposed to handle food responsibly when I haven't bathed in six days or slept?" he said. "Public safety is at risk there. I've got to make the call and be like, 'OK, I'm sorry. I just can't do it,' but I want to work." 

Citing a lack of direction and incentive to continue living, Dunlop believes that MAID is his only path forward. 

"I looked at my future, and I said, 'What am I going to be in the next 10 years?' Same thing: wandering around homeless," Dunlop stated. 

His feelings are only amplified due to what he sees as the deteriorating state of the world, pointing to rising housing costs and inflation. Dunlop said that if he had access to stable housing and hope that he would overcome his circumstances, then he might change his mind. 

"If I can help people, well, that's good enough reason to stay, but I feel useless. That's why I want to do this: I'm hurting people. I'm hurting myself. I'm hurting society," he said.

"This isn't self-pity and self-loathing — I'm seriously using up too much emergency services. Failure is consistent, and I'm trying to get out of this hamster wheel, and I can't do it."

As The Christian Post reported, Canada legalized physician-assisted suicide in 2016, limiting it to citizens or permanent residents who were at least 18 years old and had "a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability" that included "enduring and intolerable suffering."

In 2022, Canadian Parliament expanded the law to include non-threatening physical disabilities. 

While the country intended to start offering MAID to people with mental illness on March 17, 2023, the Canadian government announced a temporary delay in December. 

Assisted suicide laws have drawn concern from disability activists over the years, warning that the law is being used to terminate the lives of people who aren't suffering from chronic illnesses and ending the lives of people despite objections from their family members. 

The Associated Press reports that there were over 10,000 deaths by euthanasia in 2021, an increase of about a third from 2020. 

Tim Stainton, who directs the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship at the University of British Columbia, called Canada's law "probably the biggest existential threat to disabled people since the Nazis' program in Germany in the 1930s."

A study published last year by the Anscombe Bioethics Centre found that countries with legalized assisted suicide or euthanasia have higher rates of "self-initiated" suicides.

"Assisted suicide advocacy is, literally, suicide advocacy, even if promoters deploy deflecting euphemisms such as, 'aid in dying,'" Wesley J. Smith, the chair and senior fellow at the conservative think tank Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism, told CP. "A society can't be pro-some suicides and then be surprised that some suicidal people outside the permitted categories think it includes them." 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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