Autonomy, Identity and the Right to Die: A Qualitative Study of Medically Assisted Death Attitudes in the Canadian Context
Grillo, Carmen Michael
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In Canada, medically-assisted death has been legal since June 17th, 2016, when Bill C-14 received royal assent in the Canadian legislature. The legal proceedings around MAiD in Canada have been supported by non-governmental organizations and advocacy groups, for and against MAiD. The legalization of MAiD is the culmination of decades of organization and advocacy, supported by generally favourable public opinion. In this dissertation, the author develops a theory to explain why individuals increasingly identify with pro-MAiD beliefs. The study consequently makes two contributions to the sociological literature; 1) it reveals the connections between autonomy, care work, humanism, and pro-MAiD identities; 2) it features the development of a critical realist social psychology, focused on the reflexivity and the creation of personal moral identity. Specifically, the study is focused on how lived experiences of death including caregiving, bereavement, and/or serious illness, inform pro-MAiD beliefs for volunteers and other actors involved with pro-euthanasia organizations. The author theorizes that pro-MAiD identities are centred primarily on the principle of autonomy, which is couched within humanist and naturalist cultural frameworks, and enacted through care work. Specifically, over the course of care work, volunteers and other movement participants witnessed what they perceived as a fundamental loss of identity by the people for whom they were caring. The loss of identity witnessed by these carers motivated them to pursue greater autonomy over their own deaths, and to therefore avoid the deterioration they witnessed in others. It also motivated them to act as social carriers for the dissemination of norms associated with pro-MAiD political stances.