Introduction

Webcast archive: CCD Statement of Principles – Part I

This week, we lay out some principles that should guide Parliament as they craft a new law.

Webcast archive: CCD Statement of Principles – Part I

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

  • CCD Statement of Principles – Part I: Myths and realities

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

CCD’S STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES FOR LEGISLATION FOLLOWING THE CARTER DECISION – PART I

  • As you probably already know, the Supreme Court of Canada declared on February 6, 2015 that the criminal law prohibiting assisted suicide was unconstitutional.
  • The court said that a “competent adult with a grievous and irremediable medical condition” that caused enduring suffering could consent to termination of life with physician assistance.
  • The Supreme Court gave parliament until February 6, 2016 to adopt a bill that would create a “carefully regulated scheme” to protect vulnerable people from abuse and errors.
  • Even before the adoption of Québec’s euthanasia law in 2014, TVNDY had already started to think about how we can improve the safeguards that haven’t worked in other countries where assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal.
  • So we had some very specific ideas to bring to a process begun by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities this spring to develop recommendations for parliament.
  • After a collaborative process with the Canadian Association of Community Living (thanks to everyone who participated!) CCD presented its recommendations to the Provincial Expert Panel.
  • Today we will share our findings, some important facts that Parliament must recognize and which are often ignored in the debate on this question. You’ll find a large portion of this information familiar if you’ve listened to our webcasts before.
  • In the second part (next week), we’ll present the principles we believe should guide Parliament in drafting a bill.
  • Finally, in two weeks, we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty for part 3: what the actual procedures should look like. Unfortunately space limitations in the document prevented us from providing much-needed detail.  We hope to be invited to participate in the develop of the actual bill and the regulations themselves.
  • So, without further ado, here is the first part of the document.

Goals, Principles and Recommendations for Legislation Governing Assisted Suicide

Disabled people with and without terminal illness are put at great risk through the discriminatory impact of life-ending practices.  Disabled people have worked for more than 30 years in Canada and other countries to prevent the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia (AS/E).  We have consistently asserted that legalizing AS/E:

  1. discriminates against people with disabilities, who are steered away from mental health services for suicide prevention, and singled out for suicide assistance;
  2. is unnecessary in that Canadians already have existing rights at the end of life such as refusal of medical treatment, palliative care including sedation until natural death occurs, and ultimately the right to commit suicide;
  3. cannot be a free choice as long as people with disabilities do not have a full range of choices in where and how they live. Canadians with disabilities have a long history of being subjected to overt and subtle discrimination including: medical exploitation, eugenics, linguistic deprivation (suppression of signed languages and non-availability of interpreters), poverty, unemployment, disenfranchisement, isolation, institutionalization, and high rates of abuse.  Canadians with disabilities still experience the highest rates of exclusion, poverty and unemployment of any minority group in Canada;
  4. cannot be regulated so as to prevent forced, coerced, or non-consenting deaths and ever-expanding eligibility criteria; and
  5. sends a negative message about the value and status of people with disabilities.

Including a disability rights perspective in the principles governing assisted suicide is the only effective remedy to such commonly-held but inaccurate, beliefs such as:

  1. Having a disability and needing help with personal care deprive a person of dignity.
  2. Life with a disability is a fate worse than death.
  3. Disability and terminal illness inevitably cause unbearable physical pain and emotional suffering which are unrelenting and have no redeeming value.
  4. A “carefully regulated scheme” (safeguards) can prevent non-consenting and coerced deaths.
  5. Caring for ill and disabled Canadians is a costly and wasteful use of scarce resources.
  6. Assisted suicide and euthanasia give people control over their lives, and accepting these services is a personal, autonomous act.
  7. Assisted suicide is a private and personal choice, not a political or social issue.
  8. There is no “slippery slope”: the law’s provisions will be respected, eligibility requirements will not be expanded, and people who fall outside the eligibility criteria will not be allowed assisted suicide.
  9. Assisted suicide and euthanasia are supported by a majority of Canadians.
  10. Most opposition to AS/E comes from religious and conservative groups.

These myths underlie the Supreme Court’s judgment in Carter v. Canada which struck down the prohibition on assisted suicide.  Assuming Parliament does not invoke the notwithstanding clause, it must nevertheless address these myths and the concerns of the disability community in whatever legislation it enacts in response to the Carter decision.