Council of Canadians with Disabilities: Legalizing assisted suicide creates a double standard

Editor’s note. The following letter was dated this past Monday and was sent to members of the Canadian Parliament. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is referring to the June 15, 2012 decision in which Justice Lynn Smith declared that Canada’s assisted suicide prohibition violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The federal government is appealing the Carter decision in hearings which began this week.

March 18, 2013

Member of Parliament
House of Commons
Ottawa ON
KIA 0A6

Dear Sir/Madam:

CanadiansDisabilitieslogoThe Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a national organization of men and women with disabilities, working for an accessible and inclusive Canada, applauds the Attorney General of Canada for appealing the decision in the Carter case, which struck down Canada’s prohibitions against assisted suicide. Although rarely recognized as such outside of the disability community, assisted suicide is a disability issue. Practically all people with “terminal illness” (in Oregon, six months or less to live) have disabilities. In every place where assisted suicide is supposed to be only for people who are “terminally ill,” people with disabilities who are not “terminally ill” are routinely helped to die.

Legalized assisted suicide creates a double standard. For people at the end of their life and people with disabilities there is assisted suicide and for everyone else assisted suicide is discouraged through suicide prevention measures. CCD opposes the creation of this double standard, because it reinforces disability discrimination.

People with disabilities and elderly Canadians are vulnerable to abuse. Although CCD has been studying assisted suicide since the Sue Rodriguez case in 1993, we have not found any safeguards which we believe would adequately protect people with disabilities and elderly people from the dangers of abuse. In general, the “safeguards” put forward in other jurisdictions have been ignored or abused, or otherwise stretched in application to result in the deaths of persons with disabilities not envisioned in the original legislation allowing assisted suicide.

We encourage you to support maintaining Canadian prohibitions against assisted suicide.

For more information about CCD’s perspective, please view a video about assisted suicide featuring Rhonda Wiebe, the Co-chair of CCD’s Ending of Life Ethics Committee. We have also attached a fact sheet which provides additional information on assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Sincerely,

Tony Dolan
Chairperson