Introduction

Webcast archive: Abuse and assisted suicide

Today, we look at the risks, rates, and barriers to escaping abuse for people with disabilities.

Webcast archive: Abuse and assisted suicide

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

  • Abuse and assisted suicide

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

ABUSE OF ELDERS AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: THE LINK TO ASSISTED SUICIDE

  • What are the links between abuse of elders and people with disabilities and assisted suicide/euthanasia? There are several links:
    • Abuse is a manifestation of the devaluation of disabled people.
    • The high rate of abuse of this population how disabled people are vulnerable to assisted suicide.
    • The effects of abuse lead to requests for assisted suicide.
  • We’ll come back to these three ideas near the end of the program, so keep them in mind.
  • Every week, we see several incidents of elders or people with disabilities abused in a wide variety of circumstances.
  • It happens at home, in long-term care, in group homes, on paratransit and on public transit, in hospitals and police stations, and in the street.
  • Disabled people are abused by a wide variety of perpetrators, such as caregivers or helpers, medical service providers, as well as family members and strangers.
  • This violence can cause disability or worsen existing disabilities.
  • There are very few studies about the incidence of abuse, the experience of disabled abuse survivors, the barriers that prevent people from getting necessary help to end the abuse, and punishing those responsible.
  • High rates of abuse
  • A study by the DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada found that 40% of Canadian women with a disability had experienced some form of violence in their lives.
  • Another study indicated that 60% of women with disabilities are likely to experience some form of violence in the course of their adult lives.
  • Considering all violent crimes, including those committed by spouses, a Canadian study shows 51% of women with disabilities had been victims of more than one violent crime during the preceding 12 months, compared to 36% of women without limitations.
  • Persons with mental or behavioural disabilities experience personal victimization at a rate four times that of the rate of people without disabilities.
  • In a study comparing the rates of sexual and physical assault among women with and without disabilities, it was women with disabilities were found to be four times more likely to have experienced a sexual assault than women without disabilities.
  • Why are disabled people vulnerable?
    • We are trained to be compliant to say yes (even to procedures that are invasive, unpleasant or painful) and to trust authorities and helpers.
    • Our perceptions are questioned and disregarded
    • We are exposed to many people behind closed doors
    • We are often socially isolated
    • Many people have access to our bodies
    • Sometimes we have a hard time understand or explaining what happened.
    • When abuse happens often, or we see other being abused, it seems “normal” to us.
    • We are devalued and we don’t have control of our lives, which leads to low self-esteem.

Kinds of abuse

  • Verbal/psychological
    • Name calling, insulting
    • Criticizing, blaming and badgering
    • Controlling, isolating.
    • Threatening violence or abandonment,
    • Shouting, physical intimidation and throwing things,
    • Hurting or killing pets,
    • Hiding medications, glasses, or removing a wheelchair
    • locking the person in a closet, a cage, or in- or outdoors.
    • Placing soiled cloths or diapers on or near the person’s face.
  • Financial exploitation
    • Denying a person access to their money
    • Stealing money or objects
    • Spending the person’s money on food or items the caregiver prefers.
    • Telling a person what s/he can or can’t do with her own money
    • Demanding loans, investments or bequests.
  • Neglect
    • Failing to provide personal care, cooking and shopping.
    • Leaving the person in one place, refusing to re-position the person (to avoid bed sores).
    • Failing to maintain a clean, healthy environment
    • Failing to gather the mail or pay bills
    • Refusal to help the person attend medical appointments or do errands.
  • Physical abuse
    • Punching, slapping or kicking, etc.
    • Tying up, restraining or locking the person in a cage or closet.
    • Suffocating, drowning, choking, force-feeding,
    • Pushing a person down the stairs or shoving them into a wall or furniture
    • Whipping or beating a person with objects.
    • Cutting, burning (with heat or acid), shocking (including with a Taser), wrenching or breaking bones
    • Rough handling when providing personal care.
  • Sexual abuse
    • Any unwanted sexual act or contact.
    • Taking photos of the person while s/he is naked or in revealing costumes and publishing them on the internet.
    • Forcing the person to have sex with someone else.
    • Using drugs or alcohol to make the person have sex.
    • Marking or branding the person.
  • Conjugal violence – People with disabilities were between 50% and 100% more likely than those without disabilities to have experienced violence by a spouse.
  • Barriers to reporting abuse – There are various barriers that make it hard for disabled people to get out of abusive situations:
    • Shame and low self-esteem
    • Hard to get information on available services
    • difficulties in accessing transportation,
    • Difficulty contacting shelters and other services, or a lack of accessibility to these services
    • Fear of losing their financial security, housing, personal care services, and welfare benefits and fear of being institutionalized.
    • Abuse complaints by disabled people are often disregarded, the abuse is not seen as a serious violation and the person is not believed.
    • A person abused in an institution may fear retaliation if she reports abuse.
  • As we already know, perpetrators who abuse disabled people are rarely punished.
    • Sometimes an attendant or a paratransit driver who has abused people in one city moves, gets another job, and commits the same crimes elsewhere.
    • Parents who kill their disabled children rarely spend time in prison; either they aren’t convicted, or their sentences are suspended they’re given probation.
  • Getting back to the three links between abuse of disabled people and assisted suicide:
  • Abuse is a manifestation of the devaluation of disabled people
    • Abuse of disabled people arises from the idea that people with disabilities are less valuable than non-disabled people.
    • Society’s response – refusing to believe the victims, to study the issue, or to punish the perpetrators – shows the same devaluation.
    • If we permit the abuse of disabled people, killing not a big step.
  • The high rate of abuse of this population shows how people with disabilities are vulnerable
    • We are vulnerable because the Charter guarantees of equal rights have not been realized. We don’t have access to public transportation, community housing, employment, public accommodations, and communications.
    • What’s more, we are vulnerable because the personal care that is offered is provided in institutions according to a factory model, where we are isolated and we have no control on when and how the care will be provided.
  • The effects of abuse lead to requests for assisted suicide
    • We are trained to be compliant, and to accept what doctors, professionals and helpers do to and for us.
    • This training, and abuse, destroy self-esteem, and lead to hopelessness
    • The cause of our despair is ignored when we ask for assisted suicide, because society believes that it’s logical for a disabled person to want to die.