Webcast archive: U.N. recommendations

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

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

  • Follow-up on U.N. recommendations:  what was left out
  • FAQ: Safeguards Fail – Reporting requirements and enforcement of safeguards

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


  • Last week we reported that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities expressed concern over Canada’s assisted suicide/euthanasia program, and made recommendations for coming into compliance with Article 10 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) dealing with the Right to Life.
  • We noted that the inclusion of these recommendations amounts to a victory for people with disabilities.  However, several proposals suggested by disability rights activists were not included in the U.N. Committee’s report that could have provided stronger protections for people with disabilities.  These include:
    • Canada should limit the expansion of MAiD in order to protect people with psychosocial disabilities, children with disabilities and people with dementia from being specifically targeted for assisted suicide and euthanasia;
    • Consistent with Concluding Observations issued by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in respect of assuring protection for the right to life for vulnerable persons under the system in the Netherlands, Canada should require prior review of each request by an independent authority in order to “guarantee that this decision was not the subject of undue influence or misapprehension.”
  • The government of Canada is currently studying the idea of expanding euthanasia and assisted suicide to children under 18 years old, people with mental illness, and via advance directive for people with dementia.  The decision of the U.N. to not put a check on these practices is, therefore, disappointing.
  • It’s also interesting that the U.N. Committee did not see fit to suggest that each assisted dying request be subject to prior review, as it did in its recommendations to the Netherlands.  Though the Netherlands did not change its law to comply with the U.N.’s suggestion, the official statement of support for prior review carries moral, if not legal weight.


  • Most laws require doctors to report assisted suicide or euthanasia, but don’t have any way to verify that doctors file those reports, nor any penalties for not reporting.
  • Doctors don’t report euthanasia for many reasons.
    • If they didn’t follow the correct procedure.
    • If they don’t consider what they’ve done an assisted suicide or euthanasia under the law.
    • If something went wrong.
    • When someone other than a doctor administers the lethal dose.
    • Any other reason.
  • Even when there are penalties, doctors who don’t report are rarely identified or punished.
  • Assisted suicide and euthanasia cannot be counted in the statistics if they’re not reported.
  • In most jurisdictions, assisted suicides are not counted as suicides, such as in Oregon.
  • Problems are rarely investigated, and safeguards are not enforced.
    • Government agencies often lack power, funds or motivation to investigate problems or abuses, Even where a violation is found.
    • Agencies or professional associations who work closely with doctors may have a conflict of interest and not want to investigate.
    • Once a person is dead, it’s rare that someone comes forward to say there was a problem.
    • The standard of proof that a doctor acted properly is often very low, even below the negligence standard.