Amy Hasbrouck Submits Powerful Testimony To Canadian Senate Committee in opposition to Bill C-7

Editor’s note. This article was published by Not Dead Yet on December 1 and reposted at Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Amy Hasbrouck

On November 23, 2020, Amy Hasbrouck, Not Dead Yet Board Member and Director of Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet [TVNDY], submitted testimony to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Canadian Parliament.

The Canadian Parliament will soon be voting on Bill C-7 to expand the current euthanasia bill [Bill C-14]. This bill is in response to a court case (Truchon, et al.) in which two disabled people, one with cerebral palsy and one with MS, sued because doctors would not say their deaths were “reasonably foreseeable,” the vague standard under the current law

Amy Hasbrouck’s  description of TVNDY is a strong and moving introduction to why the disability rights strongly opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia laws: 

Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee. Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet (TVNDY) is a project of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities to inform, unify and give voice to the disability rights-based opposition to assisted suicide, euthanasia, and other ending-of-life practices that have a disproportionate impact on disabled people, women, elders, indigenous and racialized people, and persons subject to other forms of oppression. TVNDY was founded in 2013 as a progressive, non-religious organization of disabled people and our allies. We believe that there can be no free choice to die while old, ill and disabled people don’t have a free choice in where and how we live. We recognize that the movement toward assisted death is driven by the devaluation of disabled lives captured in the phrase “better dead than disabled” and manifest in society’s inequitable application of suicide prevention policies; where non-disabled people who want to die get suicide prevention services, while disabled people get suicide completion assistance.

Her testimony sums up the situation as follows: 

In its 2015 decision in Carter v. Attorney General of Canada that struck down the prohibition on physician assisted dying, the Supreme court said that protecting “vulnerable” people (such as elders, women, LGBTQI and disabled folks, indigenous and racialized people) would require a “carefully designed system imposing stringent limits that are scrupulously monitored and enforced.” The language and implementation of Bill C-14, the medical assistance in dying or MAiD law have not met the Carter mandate. Bill C-7 compounds this failure by rolling back protections beyond what is mandated by the Québec superior court in the Truchon c. procureur général decision, and before parliament has done the five-year review required in the MAiD statute. Far from being “an exceptional measure for exceptional cases” . . . , Canada’s program already has resulted in the deaths of nearly 20,000 disabled people, many of whom also have a terminal illness.

The TVNDY testimony highlighted the lack of independent living options impacting people with disabilities who request euthanasia, and pointed to concerns raised by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of People with Disabilities: 

In her 2019 End of mission statement, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of People with Disabilities, Catalina Devandas Aguilar said she was “extremely concerned about the implementation of the legislation on medical assistance in dying” as well as the lack of options for independent living. In our series of webcasts “No Free Choice” TVNDY has documented numerous examples of persons who sought assisted death because they did not have the services and supports they needed to maintain a reasonable quality of life. . . . During the pandemic, disability rights activists have joined with racial and other social justice movements to declare that#NoBodyIsDisposable, yet 80% of deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in long-term care facilities.

Hasbrouck pointed out that the proposed amendments to the Canadian bill go beyond what would have been required by the  Truchon decision and make matters worse “before the five-year review mandated by Bill C-14 has been accomplished.” 

Bill C-7 would reduce the number of witnesses required to sign the written request from two to one, and allow that person to be a care provider, thus setting the stage for an abusive attendant to coerce a person to ask for death, and then serve as the only witness to the request. Instead of clarifying what it means for someone’s natural death to be “reasonably foreseeable” — or scrapping the slippery and malleable concept altogether — Bill C-7 puts those folks on a fast-track to death. The bill would eliminate the ten-day reflection period, as well as the requirement that the person be able to confirm their consent when the lethal injection is given; thereby creating a de facto advance directive. So even if a person must wait weeks to see if an antidepressant will relieve their emotional distress, or months to get access to palliative care, they can get the deadly dose right away. That person with the abusive caregiver mentioned earlier; no one will even blink if they’re euthanized the same day they’re approved (as happened in Québec).

Her testimony concludes: 

Instead of rushing to pass over-reaching legislation to meet a court-imposed deadline in the midst of a pandemic, parliament should concentrate on performing a rigorous and balanced examination of the euthanasia program as a whole. Parliament must determine whether the MAiD law . . .monitoring system is robust enough to detect problems, prevent the deaths of ineligible persons and impose consequences for those deaths. The five-year review could also answer the question whether it’s possible to enforce the MAiD law, let alone if it’s being enforced. Anything less would be a betrayal of the democratic process and the public trust.

To read the full testimony, please go to the TVNDY website .