Introduction

Webcast archive: Québec court decides Truchon/Gladu case

Our initial thoughts on the Truchon/Gladu case, and an update on the Dutch doctor in the "coffee incident."

Webcast archive: Québec court decides Truchon/Gladu case

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

  • Québec court decides Truchon/Gladu case
  • Dutch Doctor acquitted in euthanasia of woman with dementia

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

QUÉBEC COURT DECIDES TRUCHON/GLADU CASE

  • A Québec superior court has ruled unconstitutional the portion of the federal MAiD law that limits eligibility to people whose natural death has become reasonably foreseeable, and the requirement in Québec’s euthanasia law that the person must be at the “end of life.”
  • In a 186-page decision, Judge Christine Beaudoin confused the plaintiffs’ physical limitations with an inability to live independently, by ignoring the public policy that limits their choice by preferring institutional over consumer directed in-home personal assistance services.  Nor did the court mention Canada’s obligation under article 19 of the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities to provide services to enable disabled people to live independently in the community.
  • The Truchon/Gladu decision brings to mind the 2012 British Columbia Trial Court ruling in the Carter case, which was a foundation of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the ban on assisted suicide and euthanasia.
  • We haven’t finished reading the entire decision, so a more detailed analysis will have to wait.  We offer some initial thoughts.
  • The judge placed great confidence in doctors’ ability not only to assess medical eligibility, but also a person’s decision-making capacity and the impact of social and economic pressures on MAiD requests.  This adherence to the “medical model” of disability, which sites the “problem” of disability with the individual while ignoring society’s responsibility to accommodate the full range of humanity, is a setback for the disability rights movement.
  • However the court failed to question why pain management techniques were ineffective for the plaintiffs, nor the fact that palliative care is often unavailable or inadequate.
  • The Court applies a “presumption of competence” to the plaintiffs’ request for euthanasia, saying “like any other able and knowledgeable person, persons with disabilities may have a rational and legitimate desire to end their lives, given their condition.” In fact, when “any other” non-disabled person expresses a wish to die, it is not considered a “rational and legitimate desire to end their lives,” but rather evidence of suicidality, if not incompetence.  We believe the court is applying a discriminatory double standard that limits access to suicide prevention services for people with disabilities.
  • The court distinguishes the plaintiffs by their physical limitations, poorly-managed pain, and their dependence.  Though all of these factors are directly related to disability, they are caused by inadequate medical care, discriminatory social policies, and attitudes about disability.

DUTCH DOCTOR ACQUITTED IN EUTHANASIA OF WOMAN WITH DEMENTIA

  • A Dutch doctor was cleared of wrongdoing in the euthanasia death of a 74-year-old woman with dementia.
  • As we reported last year, officials in the Netherlands brought charges against a doctor who performed euthanasia on a woman who had signed an advance directive requesting euthanasia several years previously, but was giving mixed signals about her desire to die when she was given the lethal injection.  In addition, the doctor put a sedative in the woman’s coffee, and had family members hold her down as she struggled against the injection.
  • Judges in the Hague said the doctor met all criteria, though prosecutors alleged she made insufficient efforts to verify that the woman wanted to die.  The advance directive stated that the woman wanted to die “whenever I think the time is right.” In the weeks leading up to the euthanasia, witnesses testified the woman stated “not just now, it’s not so bad yet.”
  • Prosecutors are deciding whether to appeal the ruling.
  • The ruling establishes the legal principle that an advance directive will be taken as a binding statement of a person’s wishes, should the person later be deemed incompetent to make decisions for themselves.  Activists believe such policies pose a danger to people who, upon adapting to a disability, are satisfied to live with a disability. Thus, people with dementia are not allowed to change their minds, should they decide that life with a disability is not, in fact, a fate worse than death.