Webcast archive: Murder charge leads to calls for AS expansion

This week, we examine the idea that the “mercy killing” of Michel Cadotte’s wife should lead to expansion of euthanasia.

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

  • Murder charge leads to calls to expand Québec euthanasia law.
  • FAQ:  If only people who request euthanasia or assisted suicide and meet the criteria will be killed, where is the danger?

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


  • Last week, a Québec man was charged with second degree murder in the death of his wife who had Alzheimer’s disease.  Michel Cadotte is accused of killing his wife in the nursing home where she lived.
  • The coverage was solely focused on the suspect and his feelings about his wife’s illness, never questioning his assertion that his wife, Jocelyne Lizotte, was “suffering” and that she wanted to be euthanized.
  • Most articles quoted a facebook post by Cadotte, and comments by friends and family about Lizotte’s condition, and her failure to qualify for Québec’s euthanasia program.  They also quoted spokespeople from the campaign group Dying with Dignity arguing for expansion of Québec’s law to allow for euthanasia for people with dementia.
  • Some, but not all of the reports, offered a comment from a representative from the Alzheimer’s association cautioning that people often change their minds after making an advance directive.
  • In their reporting of the murder, the media engaged in the kind of biased practices identified in a report by the Ruderman Family Foundation which examined coverage of murders of disabled people.
  • According to the Ruderman report, following the murder of a disabled person “the news media far too often rushes in to explain, justify, and forgive the murderer. They produce ‘killer-centered’ stories that link disability to hardship, hardship to murder, and erase the victim’s life and death from the narrative. Judges, prosecutors, and juries tend to go more leniently on murderers whose victims are disabled, and the media tends to report such light sentences as understandable rather than outrageous.”
  • According to the report, “such coverage leads to further dehumanization of people with disabilities, spreads the idea that their lives are worth less than non-disabled lives, and contributes to the exclusion of people with disabilities. “
  • By accepting without question Mr. Cadotte’s point of view, the media are furthering the agenda of those who want to expand euthanasia to include a population that was supposed to be specifically protected under Québec’s Bill 52; people who are incompetent to consent to euthanasia.


  • Data from places where assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal show that people who are not eligible are often killed anyway.  Even during the first nine months of the program in Québec, three people died who were not eligible.
  • The idea of a “free and informed choice” is a myth because:
    • There is no screening for depression;
    • Medications often have side effects that cloud emotion and judgment
    • Many elders and people with disabilities are subject to pressure, coercion and abuse.
    • Information provided is irrelevant, is not understandable, or not provided in accessible formats.
    • Services to relieve suffering, such as palliative care, are often not be available.
  • The suicide or euthanasia requests of disabled people are not evaluated by the same standard as with a non-disabled person.
    • Prejudices about people’s capabilities and the quality of life with a disability shape the responses of medical staff in responding to a disabled person who wants to kill himself.
    • People assume that disabled people are completely incapable and need help with everything, even to kill themselves.
    • People assume that wanting to die is a “rational” choice; that life with a disability is worse than death, and that having a disability is reason enough to die. People assume that having a disability means a life without happiness, love or satisfaction, only constant pain and suffering.
    • Many people believe that folks with disabilities have nothing to offer their families or society.
  • Finally, the danger comes from not recognizing the effects of discrimination that limit the choices of people with disabilities as to where and how they live, the personal assistance and health care they will receive, and if they can work or get around.  By refusing to acknowledge and correct this discrimination, society creates the miserable conditions that drive people with disabilities to want to kill themselves.