Disability community worried about assisted dying expansion

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In his article published by the Epoch Times on March 10, 2021, Lee Harding interviews several disability rights activists to examine why the disability community opposes the expansion of euthanasia by Bill C-7. 

Taylor Hyatt

Taylor Hyatt, a young woman with cerebral palsy tells Harding about a personal experience:

She recalls an occasion where acute breathing problems brought her to a hospital emergency room in Ottawa. When a doctor asked her if she wanted oxygen, she replied, “Of course I do.” The doctor then asked, “Are you sure?”

“I was floored,” Hyatt told The Epoch Times. “It was a real eye-opener for me about the way people trust doctors to be a guide to maybe frightening situations.”

Hyatt expressed her concern that the Canadian health care system is offering death as the preferred option for people with disabilities.

“If this bill goes through, and it probably will, I am thinking that I don’t want to be in the hospital alone ever again. Who knows what kind of judgments will be made? And unfortunately, what disabled people have to say about the value of their own minds and the support they need instead of the facilitation of their death—all of that is being pushed aside.”

Harding explains that during the Bill C-7 debate in Parliament and the Senate that several people with disabilities stated that they were pressured to ask for death.

Jonathan Marchand

Jonathan Marchand, who has muscular dystrophy, testified that “several doctors pressured me to adopt euthanasia, ‘comfort care’ as they called it,” after severe pneumonia put him in intensive care. “I never asked for this. I spent the next few weeks thinking and crying my eyes out. My life is really over? The thought had never crossed my mind.”

Disability leader, Gabrielle Peters, told Harding:

“Decades of dire warnings about how old and disabled people are going to burden our health care and society has been matched by marketing MAiD as a heroic, brave, self-sacrificing, and honourable death. You would be shocked at the number of times I have been called selfish by health-care professionals for wanting health care.”

Harding explains that there have been at least 15 media accounts of people being pressured to die by euthanasia. Roger Foley of London Ontario launched a lawsuit after being offered assisted death rather than assisted home care.

Senator Don Plett

Harding interviewed Senator Don Plett, who attempted to amend Bill C-7 to make it illegal for a physician to introduce the topic of assisted death with patients. Plett stated:

“I just think it is a sad, sad reflection on our society when we do not offer people the help that they need. … We should spend our time making living with dignity a higher priority than having dying with dignity the priority.”

Harding reports on how Senator Plett responded when the Senate passed the amendment allowing euthanasia for mental illness.

Plett called it a “brutal” amendment to “horrible legislation.”

“I believe that making mental illness as a sole reason for asking for assisted
suicide is just, it’s just absolutely going way too far.”

Harding then interviewed me  about the euthanasia for mental illness amendment to Bill C-7. I stated that in the Netherlands and Belgium euthanasia for mental illness requires one year of treatment whereas Bill C-7 would allow euthanasia for mental illness in 90 days without requiring treatment. I said

“In that one year, you must try all effective known treatments, Canada’s Bill C-7 does not require that you at least try effective treatments, so if you’re not terminally ill you can die within 90 days if you’ve been approved.” 

I then explain to Harding how the Bill C-7 uses undefined terms which enables a wider use of the law and noted how except for its exclusion of minors, C-7 is the most liberal euthanasia legislation in the world. Here’s the passage:

Bill C-7 says that if someone’s death is “reasonably foreseeable,” he or she can request MAiD and receive it the same day, whereas such a request would require a 90-day wait in other circumstances. Schadenberg says the bill leaves itself vulnerable to legal challenges to further expand euthanasia because the phrase “reasonably foreseeable” has never been defined, and some conditions require a wait while others don’t.

I told Harding about the many calls that EPC [Euthanasia Prevention Coalition] receives from family members who are distraught by the euthanasia death of a family member.

“It leaves a lot of people behind who have great, great pain related to the fact that a family member whom they dearly loved died in a way that they thought was absolutely wrong,”

“They’re not happy about it, but they’re also emotionally distraught by the situation, and they don’t want their stories told.”

Very few journalists have dug into the issues as Lee Harding has done. Thank you.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.