When Margaret Marsilla found out her 23-year-old son scheduled his own death, she started her race against time.
An October 11 report from Common Sense tells the harrowing tale of a Canadian mother who discovered that her son scheduled himself to die. Her story offers a real-life account of the dangers that legalized euthanasia can pose to individuals in distress, the families they leave behind, and society as a whole.
Margaret Marsilla, 46, is a mother of two who lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter. Her 23-year-old son, Kiano Vafaeian, lives with his aunt and generally keeps his business to himself. Marsilla often worries about her Kiano, because he suffers from depression that stems from his diabetes, a condition that worsened this summer, causing the loss of sight in one of his eyes.
Marsilla’s worries for her son’s well being led her to do a little snooping, with the help of her daughter who had access to Kiano’s facebook and email accounts. It was then that she learned that her son had sought and been approved for medically assisted suicide, part of Canada’s “Medical Assistance in Dying” law, also called MAiD.
Discovering that her son had just about two weeks left to live before the procedure, Marsilla began to investigate. The next day, she called the doctor and pretended to be a prospective patient, describing her condition as much like her son’s. The doctor, Joshua Tepper, seemed accommodating, going so far as to offer a “formal assessment,” which could be conducted in person or over video conference.
Not knowing what else to do, Marsilla took to social media, sharing her story and seeking advice. When another physician who performed MAiD procedures expressed surprise that Kiano was accepted based on diabetes, Marsilla organized a meeting with all the involved parties: Kiano, Tepper, Kiano’s aunt, and Marsilla herself.
Unfortunately, this meeting was mostly fruitless, due to a Canadian news source picking up the story. The publicity had prompted a storm of angry phone calls to Tepper’s office. However, the pushback from the public led Tepper to delay and ultimately cancel Kiano’s procedure.
Speaking with Common Sense, however, Kiano said that his feelings on seeking suicide have not changed:
“I was so ready. I was actually very looking forward to ending my pain and suffering. I tried to do as much as I can and, hopefully, in doing so, I might come across something or someone that could change my mind.” The 23-year-old added, “My thoughts are that I would be closer to God.”
While the young man acknowledges that his mother’s actions were based in love, he remains angry at her for her intervention. In a heated string of text messages between the pair he cursed her for “adding to [his] pain and suffering.” Still, Marsilla’s efforts have helped to keep Kiano alive, as he noted that most MAiD doctors want nothing to do with him now.
Common Sense notes that MAiD deaths have only increased in the years since the law was passed, in 2017. It is estimated that in some Canadian provinces MAiD deaths make up nearly 5% of the annual total. While the majority of the 31,664 recorded MAiD procedures were performed on the elderly and terminally ill, the number of young people who elect to euthanize themselves has consistently risen each year.
This steady increase comes due to a widening scope of how medical practitioners define “reasonably foreseeable” death, as well as an increasing number of medical conditions that doctors can accept as “intolerable” to the patient.
Next year, Canadian lawmakers are expected to adjust the criteria for euthanasia eligibility, to include the mentally ill and “mature minors.” The latter would allow underaged patients to make such decisions for themselves if the doctor deems them “mature” enough; however, the basis for recognition of “maturity” in this instance is not clearly defined.