Ken Berger: “persons with disabilities are being assisted to their death rather than being assisted with life”
By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Ken Berger, the lawyer representing Roger Foley, a man who is stuck in a London, Ontario hospital for two years, told CTV News that has urged Canada’s justice minister to halt all medically assisted deaths until the government can ensure that all necessary services are first proved to patients to live.
According to CTV News, Berger sent a letter to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, requesting the “immediate moratorium” and a public inquiry on all assisted deaths provided in the country so far. Berger wrote:
“Persons suffering with severe disabilities require necessary health care, assistance and compassion,
“These crucial services are not always provided at times of most need or in such a way that relieves suffering; instead, persons with disabilities are being assisted to their death rather than being assisted with life.”
Foley, who lives with cerebellar ataxia, an incurable neurological disease, recently filed a landmark lawsuit against a London hospital, several health agencies, the Ontario government and the federal government. He alleges that health officials will not provide him with an assisted home care team of his choosing, instead offering, among other things, medically assisted death.
CTV News reported that
according to his statement of claim, the only two options offered to him have been a “forced discharge” from the hospital “to work with contracted agencies that have failed him” or medically assisted death. Refusing to leave the hospital and unwilling to die by a doctor’s hand, Foley claims he has been threatened with a $1,800 per day hospital bill.
Berger told CTV News that he believes that his client is not alone in his suffering and frustration.
“There are many individuals that are not being offered alternatives . They are not being supported or not having the necessary services put in place in a way that relieves their suffering.”
According to CTV News, Berger wrote in his letter to the Justice Minister that
“all necessary health services are provided before persons are misled into premature and inappropriate deaths because of their belief that they are a burden to society with no alternative to death.”
CTV News continued:
Berger and Foley argue the current assisted death legislation violates the Charter’s right to “life, liberty and security of the person” when assisted death is offered before other care options.
“(Foley) is substantially suffering,” Berger said. “He is going to fight this, not only to protect his own constitutional rights, but also the constitutional right of all Canadians.”
Trudo Lemmens, a professor and Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, told CTV News by email that Foley’s case should be taken seriously.
“We focus too much on stories of empowered people who
want to use medically assisted death, often with the message that access should be easier. …
“We rarely hear stories about (often unconscious) pressure and inappropriately conducted MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying), but that doesn’t mean this doesn’t happen.
“People who are dead don’t complain.”
According to CTV News, Lemmens wants to see governments and other regulators institute clear procedures, better legal guidance, and greater oversight to ensure patients receive proper treatment and are not pressured into choosing death.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.