Webcast archive: Next steps post-Carter

Today, we talk about the choices Parliament could make following the Carter decision.

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

  • Next steps post-Carter
  • A story collection in progress

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


  • The Supreme Court allowed a one-year delay before the criminal code provisions that prohibit assisted suicide will be invalidated.
  • Several things could happen within the next few months
  • Parliament could do nothing, leading to a situation where assisted suicides happen without restriction or regulation;
  • The parliament could quickly adopt a law to regulate assisted suicide and/or euthanasia;
  • Parliament could ask for an extension of the deadline, to allow time to study how to manage assisted suicide and/or euthanasia; or
  • Parliament could invoke the “Notwithstanding clause” (article 33) of Canada’s constitution.
    • The parliament could do nothing
  • 2015 is an election year; voters go to the polls on October 19. This leaves four months to the end of the spring session of parliament, and two months after the election to adopt a bill to regulate medical killing.
  • Despite the fact that there is already a bill on the order paper of both chambers, there has been neither study nor hearings on the law up to the present.
  • Without limits and regulations, pretty much anyone could obtain “medical aid in dying” (rather than limiting it to people with disabilities and severe illness) At least that would create a more egalitarian system.
    • Parliament could quickly pass a bill
  • Parliament could study Steven Fletcher’s proposed bills, since they are already available.
  • However there isn’t enough time this spring to undertake a detailed study, hold hearings, and make amendments on a bill, especially on a question as serious as assisted suicide and euthanasia.
  • We have already talked about the problems with Steven Fletcher’s bills in our online discussion. (Please check out the March 28 and December 5 2014 editions.) Let’s just say that the safeguards are inadequate to ensure that disabled people aren’t pressured to choose assisted suicide or euthanasia.
    • Parliament could ask for an extension on the deadline
  • Despite what the plaintiffs in the Carter case said, parliament has already spoken on the issue of assisted suicide. In 2010, a bill to legalize the practice was defeated 228 to 59.
  • This follows the pattern seen 140 times in the U.S., where a bill is introduced in a state assembly with great enthusiasm, the legislators hear from people with disabilities that it’s a discriminatory and unjust policy, and the bill is defeated. So far, the score is 140 defeats to 3 victories for AS/E.
  • If parliament took the time to really study these bills, it could perhaps respond to the questions raised by the Carter decision, such as:
    • How do we reconcile AS/E with our public policy to prevent suicide?
    • How do we prevent the circumstances that lead to requests for AS/E?
    • How do we detect and eliminate negative views of the quality of life of disabled people in the policy and practice of AS/E?
    • How can we assure that people are really competent and making a clear and informed decision?

The Notwithstanding Clause

  • This section allows parliament to declare that a law applies, regardless of any violation of the charter of rights and freedoms.
  • The Notwithstanding clause lasts up to five years.
  • In this case, the sections of the criminal code that prohibit medical aid in dying would remain in effect despite the court’s finding that they violate the plaintiffs rights under articles 1 and 7 of the charter of rights.
  • All that to say that Section 33 would cancel the effect of the Carter decision for a limited time.  The parliament would have to re-approve use of the Notwithstanding clause after five years.
  • Nevertheless, the Harper Government ™ has already said it won’t invoke the Notwithstanding clause. As long as the media and surveys say that Canadians want assisted suicide (the polls using on erroneous data and conclusions) the government believes it would be political suicide to act against the Supreme court in this case.
    • The discussion of strategies and responses continues. If you have any ideas, please contact us.


  • Those who promote assisted suicide and euthanasia have many spokespeople who tell touching stories about their personal experience.
  • But those of us with disabilities don’t use our personal experiences of discrimination in hospitals and institutions to counteract our opponents.
  • Without these stories, the public and politicians think we are alarmist, that we exaggerate the problems. No one wants to hear about what happens behind closed doors in institutions.  But in order to stop the abuses, we have to show what’s really going on.
  • There are many reasons someone might not want to tell their story:
    • The person doesn’t want to say anything negative about a facility where they live or a hospital where they may have to return for care, for fear of retribution.
    • The experience is so traumatic that it’s hard to talk about.
    • The person feels alone, as if they’re the only person who’s been abused, or as if they’ve done something to deserve the abuse (It’s not true!)
    • We understand these problems. And we have some ideas for hiding your identities (disguising the face and voice) and to provide support if you want to tell your story.
    • Since the Carter decision came out, we’ve had calls from people who couldn’t believe that assisted suicide and euthanasia would really be adopted. There are people who didn’t really think about what we’ve been saying (that there’s no choice to die as long as there’s no choice to have a good quality of life) but now they’re starting to understand.
  • It’s been more than a year since TVNDY called for stories. But to prevent the worst effects of this awful decision, we urgently need these contributions.
  • What kinds of stories are we looking for?
    • When someone (friends, family or strangers) told you you’d be better off dead.
    • When you outlived a medical prognosis.
    • You are or were stuck in institutions and you sometimes feel like you want to die.
    • You are or were re isolated at home without adequate services or the ability to get out, work, go to school or travel, and you sometimes feel like you want to die.
    • You have been neglected or badly treated at home or in an institution, and you sometimes feel like you want to die.
    • You were offered euthanasia or assisted suicide by family, friends or medical professionals.
    • You felt like you wanted to die and you couldn’t get help to improve your situation or feel better.
    • You had a therapist blame you problems on you disability.
    • You were given slow or lackadaisical medical treatment that seemed related to your disability.
    • You had a “do not resuscitate” order put on your chart without your knowledge or consent.
    • You were pressured to sign a “do not resuscitate” order.
    • You can do a video by just talking, or in a question-and-answer format.
    • If you can’t do a video yourself, or you have questions, send me an email and we can answer your questions, come help you make a video, or arrange to have someone help you.
  • We’ll do an example of a question/answer video
  • Tell us about yourself.
    • Your name,
    • Where you’re from,
    • What is your experience with disability or chronic illness?
  • What is your opinion about assisted suicide, and how did you come to that opinion?
  • Describe a time where a medical professional (doctor, nurse, social worker, etc.) encouraged you to sign a “do not resuscitate” order, or encouraged you not to refuse treatment, or have treatment withdrawn.
  • Describe an incident where a family member suggested or encouraged you to refuse treatment, have treatment withdrawn, or kill yourself.
  • Have you ever been depressed or thought about suicide?
    • If so, did you act on those feelings?
    • How did you get past those feelings to be alive today?
  • What do you think people should know about assisted suicide:
  • What needs to happen to prevent people from wanting assisted suicide?
  • Why do you think it’s important to speak out about assisted suicide?
  • What do you think we should do to educate people about assisted suicide?
  • Do you have other comments you’d like to add?