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Did Pfizer Contribute Funds to Canada’s Medically Assisted Suicide Program?

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Dying with Dignity Canada (DWDC), an organization that advocated for medically assisted death, released a 66-page list of names of 9,000 individuals and organizations that donated to its campaign in 2022. Pfizer, Inc. was included on the list as a donor to DWDC,1 which has advocated to expand the eligibility for medically assisted death to “mature minors” that would allow children as young as 12 years old to be euthanized. U.S. lawmakers have expressed that Pfizer’s financial support for DWDC raises concerns that it is complicit in prematurely ending people’s lives.2

Medically assisted death is a procedure that is conducted by a physician who administers painkilling drugs or provides the patient with drugs to end their life. This procedure is illegal in most countries but some countries such as Canada and Netherlands, as well as some U.S. states, have legalized it. Patients are required to meet eligibility criteria to qualify for medically assisted death, such as approval by two physicians and completing a waiting period.3

In Canada, euthanasia became legal in 2016 and and 13,241 procedures were conducted in 2022, which accounted for 4.1 percent of deaths that year. In 2021, the government expanded eligibility to include those with mental health disorders, a policy scheduled to begin in March 2027. Critics have expressed concerns over the expanded eligibility because people may want to end their lives because they are lonely, depressed, handicapped or suffer from some other ailment.4

Lawmakers Demand Answers from Pfizer Regarding Financial Contributions to DWDC

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and his colleagues Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), J.D. Vance (R-OH), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Mike Braun (R-IN) and Representatives Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) drafted and sent a letter to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla regarding Pfizer’s donations to DWDC and the company’s position on medically assisted death.5

The lawmakers stated that the practice of medically assisted death contradicts Pfizer’s stated purpose of “delivering breakthroughs to change patients” lives. In addition, the lawmakers stated that since Pfizer has received millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars for drug and vaccine research and development, the pharmaceutical company must be transparent with the federal government and the American people regarding its stance on medically assisted death.6

The letter stated:

DWDC is lobbying to loosen regulations to an even more extreme standard, allowing doctors to push death on “mature minors.” Canada’s current law forbids assisted death for patients under age 18. In DWDC’s opinion, however, the Canadian Parliament should extend the practice to 12-year-old minors, arguing ‘there should be a presumption of capacity for these minors.’7

Further, it said:

It has come to our attention that Pfizer is one of the 9,000 donors listed in DWDC’s 2022 annual report. As you may know, medically assisted death requires the use of drugs that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this purpose. Pfizer manufactures many of the drugs that are used off-label for medically assisted death, such as cisatracurium besylate, diazepam, fentanyl, and midazolam. In 2021, Pfizer issued a statement opposing the use of its products to administer lethal injections of prisoners, but the company has not released a statement opposing the use of similar drugs for “medically assisted death.” The practice of “medically assisted death” contradicts Pfizer’s stated purpose of “delivering breakthroughs to change patients’ lives.” Your company is dismantling public trust in our nation’s health system by supporting an organization that aims to take the lives of young children.8

The letter asked Pfizer to respond to the following questions:

  • Were U.S. taxpayer funds used to make the donation to DWDC? If not, from which source did the donation come from?
  • Why was such a donation made by Pfizer and not by its individual shareholders?
  • Does Pfizer currently manufacture and/or sell products that are used (regardless of whether prescribed off-label) for “medically assisted death” in the United States or elsewhere?
  • How much, in total, has Pfizer donated to “medically assisted death” advocacy groups over the past ten years?
  • Will Pfizer continue to donate to DWDC, or other “medically assisted death” advocacy groups, this year?
  • Which criteria does Pfizer use to determine to whom they donate?9

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