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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Emily West

Second Advisor

Angie Willey

Third Advisor

Darin Barney

Fourth Advisor

Shawn Shimpach

Subject Categories

Disability Studies | Health Communication | Mass Communication


This dissertation examines Canada’s legalization of medical assistance in dying (MAiD). Specifically, it focuses on how the debates surrounding the legalization process, the cultural history of euthanasia drugs, and the ethical dimensions of disability shaped assisted dying outcomes in the country in the period between the precedent-setting February 2015 Carter v. Canada Supreme Court case and the legislation, passed in June 2016, that enacted legalized MAiD. This mixed methods project uses discursive analysis of media texts, pharmacological history, and rhetorical analysis of first-person testimonies. The first analytic chapter, “Self-Determination, Euthanasia, and the Right to Die,” considers how the shift toward greater autonomy from medicine at the end of life took place as a discursive event in Canada. The second chapter, “‘Cito, Tuto et Jucunde’: The Many Lives of the Drugs Used to Kill Quickly, Safely and Pleasantly,” scrutinizes the relationship between the medicalization of death and barbiturates, the drugs used in medically assisted deaths. The final chapter, “Disability and the Right to Die in Canada,” examines the rhetorical strategies used to justify the expansion of MAiD eligibility criteria in Canada. I argue that case of MAiD illustrates how the ideology of ability limits the scope of our understanding of the conditions that make life livable. The recasting of health as an individual right and responsibility has crept into the changing conversation about death and dying. This individualist view is in part an ideological by-product of a culture of health based on privatized care and a politics of deservingness that links good health care to employment and hard work.