A St. Catharines, Ontario man who was in the process of taking his own life via Canada’s controversial medically assisted death (MAiD) program has found new hope after Canadians responded to his plight with an outpouring of support.
Amir Farsoud, 54, didn’t want to die but applied for a medically assisted death as an alternative to being homeless.
“I’m a different person,” Farsoud told City News adding that, “The first time we spoke, I had nothing but darkness, misery, stress and hopelessness. Now I have the opposite of those things.”
Farsoud, who lives with constant back pain qualifies for MAiD and had already had one doctor sign off on his request. A total of two doctors to agree is all that is needed for the procedure to be approved.
Once his story came out, a total stranger started a GoFundMe for Farsoud which took off raising more than $60,000 (US $43,935). The GoFundMe campaign could have continued but Farsoud asked for it to be closed after he became worried that too much money would disqualify him from receiving Ontario Disability Support Payments (ODSP), which he relies on as his only source of steady income.
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“I never even thought it would approach the goal … and it just sort of, within 24 hours, [it] exploded through the roof,” he said.
Canadians were not the only ones lining up to support Farsoud, many of the donations came from Iranians. Farsoud fled the Iranian revolution when he was just 12 years of age.
“I have felt like this one time in my life. When we left Iran and got to France, we left the plane and I was a kid, but I fell to my knees and kissed the tarmac, because no one was going to shoot me, no demonstrations, no army, no burning buildings. I’m going to get up in the morning knowing I wouldn’t be dead that night,” Farsoud said, adding that, “The way I feel or have been feeling since this happened, that’s the closest I’ve come [to that].”
Farsoud says he seeks a simple life and only wishes not to go hungry or homeless.
“Basically as long as I have enough that I’m not going hungry and not worrying about the basics until however many months or years I went on the waiting list for permanent, stable, affordable housing. That’s all I ever wanted,” he told City News. “People in my shoes don’t want extravagant lifestyles, we just want to move on,” he added.
Farsoud said that he has received numerous offers from therapists to assist him as well.
“There has been this amazing outpouring of love and support, emotional support. There’s been therapists that have gotten in touch to do like online or on the phone therapy,” he told City News.
Tinged with guilt
Farsoud says his joy is tinged with guilt because he understands that many others struggling with a disability on ODSP live in poverty and have to survive on just $1,200 (US $879.00) per month to cover food, rent and all other necessities.
“I’m over the moon about it. But there are a half a million other Ontarians who didn’t win that lottery, nor are they going to, and they are still every bit as much in need as I was the first time that we spoke,” he told City News.
Farsoud says that after paying off his debts and loans from friends he will have $40,000 (US $29,290) remaining which he will use to subsidize his ODSP by $800.00 (US $586.00) per month. He says that he hopes to have secured affordable housing by the time the funds run out. He expects the remaining funds to last him about four years.
Following the outpouring of support Farsoud has suspended his application for MAiD but had some choice words about people seeking death to avoid poverty.
“The people using it (MAiD) are the people deemed throwaways,” he said adding that, “If society can’t be bothered to give them dignity in life, then the least they can do is give them the five minutes of dignity before death.”
He added that governments should be focused on fixing the underlying issues causing poverty that are driving people to choose death as an alternative.
“I think the proper solution is to not have that problem, is to alleviate what’s causing the problem,” he explained.
“If society is concerned about people like me, and like the half million other people on ODSP in poverty, then bring them out of poverty. That’s the obvious solution. If they were out of poverty and if they had a roof over their head and food in their mouths, I guarantee you MAID wouldn’t be a consideration. The whole debate would become superfluous,” he argued.
Concerning his good fortune he said, “It’s like you see in the movies, the death row inmate in the last second gets the reprieve, it kind of feels like that.”
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Canada’s controversial MAiD program
MAiD was introduced in Canada in 2016 when a person’s death was reasonably foreseeable. The program was expanded in March of 2022 to include people with disabilities or those suffering pain even if they were not close to death.
It’s expected that the program will be expanded to include Canadians suffering with a mental illness like depression or bipolar disorder, in the spring of 2023.
In January of 2021 the United Nations (UN) released a report that said, “life-ending interventions are normalized for people who are not terminally ill or suffering at the end of their lives, such legislative provisions tend to rest on — or draw strength from — ableist assumptions about the inherent ‘quality of life’ or ‘worth’ of the life of a person with a disability.”
The UN sent a letter directly to the Government of Canada, prior to the program being expanded, saying it was concerned with the expanded access, specifically citing concerns with circumstances similar to Farsoud’s.
“It is not beyond possibility that, if offered an expanded right as per Bill C-7, persons with disabilities may decide to end their lives because of broader social factors such as loneliness, social isolation and lack of access to quality social services,” the letter said.
Farsoud expects he will still seek a medically assisted death when his pain worsens and he can’t bear it anymore but for now he plans to continue living.
“It’s amazing what an act of kindness can do,” he said, adding that, “I wouldn’t have thought it possible the kindness and humanity and compassion I saw, I didn’t think it existed anymore. It does.”