Webcast archive: 2014 in review

This week, we do a month-by-month review of the most important news from 2014.

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck and Christian Debray discuss:

  • 2014 year in review
  • News Briefs
  • Death of Stella Young
  • Assisted Suicide bill defeated in Wales.
  • Radio Blah Blah

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.



  • Québec’s national assembly amended Bill 52. MNAs changed the term “terminal palliative sedation” to “continuous palliative sedation,” and they added a definition for “medical aid in dying.” But they did not define “person at the end of life.”


  • A court in British Columbia decided that Margaret Bentley would continue to receive food and liquids by mouth. The court ruled.
  1. Bentley is capable of making the decision to accept oral nutrition and hydration and is providing her consent through her behaviour when she accepts nourishment and liquids;
  2. The assistance with feeding that she is currently receiving must continue;
  3. The provision of oral nutrition and hydration by prompting with a glass or spoon is a form of personal care, not health care within the meaning of the Health Care Consent and Care Facility Act;
  4. Even if Mrs. Bentley was found incapable of making the decision to accept oral nutrition and hydration, I am not satisfied that the British Columbia legislature intended to allow reference to previously expressed wishes or substitute decision makers to be relied on to refuse basic personal care that is necessary to preserve life.
  5. Withdrawing oral nutrition and hydration for an adult that is not capable of making that decision would constitute neglect within the meaning of the Adult Guardianship Act. It makes no allusion to alleviating suffering.
  • In a vote of 86-44, the Belgian senate approved euthanasia for children. In May, King Philippe signed the bill into law.
  • Bill 52 died when the Marois government fell at the end of February.


  • A lawyer from Ontario elicited calls for the legalization of assisted suicide with the posthumous publication of a letter following his suicide in Switzerland. Edward Hung had previously defended a woman who killed her disabled daughter.
  • Federal Conservative MP Steven Fletcher introduced a bill in the House of Commons that would allow medical aid in dying for people with disabilities that does not require that the person have a terminal illness.


  • Following his victory in the Québec election, Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard said he would reintroduce Bill 52 as is.
  • The Journal of the Canadian Medical Association launched the CMA into the assisted suicide debate with an article suggesting that legalisation was not a question of “if” but rather “how.”
  • The first Disability Rights Leadership Institute on Bioethics was held in Washington. This event brought together traditional disability rights activists and autistics who oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia.


  • On May 14, the Senate Liberal Caucus held a meeting to discuss end-of-life questions. Senators only asked questions of Steven Fletcher and assisted suicide supporters. Attorney David Baker, counsel for CCD in the Carter case, and TVNDY did our best to explain our point of view.
  • Bill 52 was resuscitated and reintroduced in Québec’s National Assembly


  • Bill 52 was adopted by the Québec National Assembly.
  • Bills to allow medical killing were introduced in England and Australia.


  • In an Editorial in The Guardian, former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu declared the manner of Nelson Mandela’s death was “an affront,” and that putting him on a respirator was “undignified.”
  • On July 18, the House of Lords in England held a hearing on the Lord Falconer’s private members bill. Not Dead Yet UK, a group of disabilities rights activists, co-sponsored a demonstration in front of Westminster Palace. Two hundred people held signs and chanted during the day-long hearing.


  • The Canadian Medical Association produced a consultation report entitled End of Life Care: A National Dialogue. Instead of opposing medical killing, the CMA voted to leave it to individual doctors whether they want to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide laws.
  • Following the highly publicized suicide of Gillian Bennett in British Columbia, other demands for legalization of assisted suicide came out of the woodwork. The Widow of Dr. Donald Low (who asked for assisted suicide in a video before his death a year previously) released a statement. Also, Maureen Taylor (the daughter of Gloria Taylor, a plaintiff in the Carter case) held a press conference to encourage the Supreme Court to overturn the prohibition on assisted suicide.
  • On August 21, Nancy Fitzmaurice had her feeding tube removed following an extraordinary court order in England. This was the first time a conscious child was killed because a court determined that she was suffering. Nancy died a few days after the feeding tube was removed.


  • The city of Berlin and the German government dedicated a memorial to people with disabilities who were killed by the Nazis before and during the second world war.
  • The World Health Organization published its first report on suicide prevention. The goal of the report is to encourage member states to create and implement programs to prevent suicide and to reduce the incidence of suicide between now and 2020. But the report does not deal with the issue of medical killing; the terms “assisted suicide” and “euthanasia” aren’t mentioned at all.
  • TVNDY participated in a demonstration along with Not Dead Yet and American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) at the biannual conference of the World Federation of Right-to-die Societies.


  • About 20 deputies and several others attended a parliamentary luncheon on October in Ottawa, organized by TVNDY. Catherine Frazee, Dr. Bonnie Sawatzky, Norm Kunc, Nic Steenhout, and Hugh Scher were among the speakers who expressed the perspective of people with disabilities on end-of-life issues.
  • On October 3, TVNDY led a Strategy and Planning Meeting on the Opposition to Medical Killing. 25 people heard presentations by Diane Coleman of Not Dead Yet, US, Kevin Fitzpatrick from the U.K. and Canadian experts.
  • Yvon Tremblay and Pierre Mayance, two Québecois with disabilities, committed suicide because regulations and a lack of services deprived them of independent living.
  • The Carter case was argued before the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • Brittany Maynard released a video on her Facebook page declaring her intention to commit suicide. Compassion & Choices is using her image and video to gain support.


  • Disability rights activists mobilized once again in London to oppose the Falconer bill.


  • Steven Fletcher’s assisted suicide / euthanasia bill was introduced in the Senate.
  • A bill to allow euthanasia was introduced in France
  • A bill to allow assisted suicide was defeated in a vote on principle in Wales.

Themes throughout the year

  • Polls
    • In June, we compared two polls, one from Gallup and the other from the Pew Centre for research, which had very different results on popular support for assisted suicide. These results have a lot to do with how the questions are asked.
    • A poll published in October by Dying with Dignity stated that 85% of people with disabilities support assisted suicide and euthanasia. However only 94 of the 2515 people who took the survey actually had disabilities; less than 2% of respondents.
  • Bills – Victories and defeats
    • Victories – New Hampshire, CT, Wales
    • Defeats – Belgium, Québec
    • In progress – 16 States in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, England, France, Canada.
  • Killing of children and adults with disabilities


  • Stella Young was a 32-year-old Australian disability rights activist and comedian who died last Saturday. She spoke forcefully against assisted suicide. She is most widely known for a TED talk she gave entitled “No, I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much” which can be viewed here.