Webcast archive: U.N. recommendations for Canada

This week, we’re discussing concerns that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has about euthanasia in Canada.

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

  • U.N. recommendations for Canada on assisted suicide/euthanasia
  • FAQ: Safeguards Fail – When the method is either assisted suicide or euthanasia

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


  • The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities considered Canada’s compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) earlier this month.
  • The Committee considered both Canada’s report, and the “Shadow” report, produced by disability rights activists, to come up with recommendations for bringing Canada into compliance with the CRPD, which it ratified in 2010.  The resulting report, “Concluding Observations on the initial report of Canada” was issued on April 12.
  •  The report expressed the Committee’s concern over the adoption of legislation that provides for Medical Assistance in Dying, including on the grounds of disability.  It also stated its concern over the absence of regulations governing the practice, and the lack of data to assess compliance with the procedural safeguards.
  • The Committee offered three recommendations:
    • Ensure persons who seek an assisted death have access to alternative courses of action and to a dignified life made possible with appropriate palliative care, disability support, home care and other social measures that support human flourishing;
    • Establish regulations pursuant to the law requiring collection and reporting of detailed information about each request and intervention for MAiD; and
    • Develop a national data standard and an effective and independent mechanism to ensure that compliance with the law and regulations are strictly enforced and that no person with disability is subjected to external pressure.
  • The first two recommendations are essentially identical to proposals put forward by disability rights advocates in their shadow report.
  • The third recommendation includes three elements:
    • A national data standard
    • An effective and independent mechanism to ensure compliance.
    • Ensuring that no person with a disability is subjected to “external pressure.”
  • The inclusion of these recommendations amounts to a great victory for disability rights activists.  However, several other proposals were not included in the U.N. Committee’s report that could have provided stronger protections for people with disabilities.  We’ll look at these next week.


  • When the method is assisted suicide / self-Administration …
    • No witness is required when the drugs are taken.  There’s no way to ensure that the drug is taken voluntarily.  If the person struggled, who would know?
    • If there are complications or the person changes her mind after swallowing the pills, there’s no way to correct the problem.
    • A lethal dose of drugs may sit around the house for weeks or months, or fall into the wrong hands.
  • When the method is euthanasia / administered by a medical professional …
    • The control over the final act is out of the hands of the person.
    • This can create a macabre specialty of “Death Doctors” who become desensitized to killing.
    • Doctors are trained to heal, not kill.  Many doctors will not want to perform euthanasia, and people who want the service will have to go to a doctor they don’t know.
    • If euthanasia is performed in hospitals, people may be not want to go to the hospital for care, fearing they might be killed.