Phoebe Maltz Bovy looks at this disturbing new ad from the Simons department store

The joy of department store shopping is in the serendipity of the experience. You can go in, unsure what you’re even looking for, and find eye shadow, a necklace, boxer shorts, or a new blender.

Or why not pick up a medically assisted suicide?

Quebec-based department store Simons is not, to my knowledge, offering a choice between a perfume sample and offing you upon entry. But they are, bizarrely enough, supporting medical assistance in dying (MAID) through a new promotional video, which was part of a campaign called “All is Beauty.” (The full video was removed after it drew global attention.)

In the film, Jennyfer Hatch, a slim white woman in her late 30s—with an emo or hipster vibe—contrasts a hospital room with the splendour of a chosen death, which would seem to involve music, jellyfish, and a dinner party with loved ones. A curious choice, because death involves being dead.

Where do Jews—observant or secular—stand on assisted suicide? There’s no one answer, in either category. Things were murky enough when MAID was merely about end-of-life assistance for the terminally ill. The ethical questions surrounding palliative care decision-making put the imperative of preserving life to the most challenging possible test.

But what of the situation, as of March 2022, where you can apply for MAID even if you’re not anywhere near a natural death, but are, say, having trouble making rent?

And ultimately here I think I have less to say as a Jew than as an American living in Canada. Normally I get to be smug, pointing out that our health-care system here allows anyone to go to the doctor without worrying about insurance or co-pays. A society that values life guarantees medical treatment even for the poor, even for the paperwork-averse.

Opponents of universal health care insist that there’s a catch. And not just the obvious, aka higher taxes. Rather, they argue that the moment you socialize medicine, you get death panels. That is, once it gets too expensive to keep everyone alive, well…

Normally I find such arguments easy enough to brush aside. Canadian health care is just done more efficiently! Our taxes aren’t even that high!

But then there’s the revised MAID law, wherein if you’re not contributing enough to the communal till, the state will graciously help you kill yourself (which is ethically interchangeable with the state killing you). That is, to use an annoying but apt expression, not a good look for the Canadian system. A shande for the Americans.

The mystery here, however, is what a department store is doing, getting in on selling MAID. The CBC’s explainer left me more confused. Confused and unsettled, what with the contrast between the high production values of the video and the rationale behind post-March-2022 MAID decision-making.

The gist of the article appears to be that it’s important to respect people’s choices—that beauty and pain coexist, that art needs to be difficult, and a range of other banalities that once again do not make clear why the company from which I once ordered three perfectly satisfactory laundry hampers now wants to help some do their final spin cycle.

The CJN’s senior editor Phoebe Maltz Bovy can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @bovymaltz