An interesting article that was written by Harry Wolbert, was printed in the Winnipeg Sun yesterday. Wolbert, a disability leader from the Winnipeg Manitoba region, examines the issue of euthanasia under the lens of how legalizating euthanasia would effect people with disabilities. Wolbert examines the current euthanasia debate in Canada within the context of what is happening in the Netherlands. He also emphasizes the reality that people with disabilities have, throughout history, lived with negative stereotypes and actions, that at times resulted in death for people with disabilities. Great letter Harry.
Euthanasia is once again in the spotlight.
The Carter case, now before the courts in B.C., seeks to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. It’s a constitutional challenge which seeks to legalize these practices as medical treatment and to be regulated within provincial health-care regulations.
On April 21, 2010, Canada’s parliament soundly defeated Bill C-384, which sought to amend the Criminal Code, allowing the right to die with dignity. It was a bad piece of legislation which, had it passed, would have directly threatened the lives of persons with disabilities.
We won this battle. However, Canada’s right-to-die lobby aren’t giving up that easily.
In November, the Royal Society of Canada released its report on end-of-life decision-making. The report repeats the phrase “life is not worth living.”
In addition, it suggests dropping “terminal illness” as a prerequisite for death by euthanasia or assisted suicide. It says, “There are many individuals whose lives are no longer worth living to them who have not been diagnosed with a terminal illness.”
RIGHT TO KILL
When society defines a human life as “no longer worth living,” then it can justify a right to kill that individual. Advocates of euthanasia are using some of the same language and rhetoric in use when the former eugenics movement was around.
Persons with disabilities have reason to be concerned. It is a misconception we are somehow “suffering” and in need of state-sanctioned assistance to end our lives.
Language commonly used by the disabled community has been hijacked. Words such as “choice” and “autonomy” are being redefined by the advocates of euthanasia. It has been said all social engineering is preceded by some form of “verbal engineering, so we need to reclaim our language.
The Netherlands is often referred to as a nation where euthanasia laws have worked well. However, we’ve learned from recent reports that many euthanasia deaths there go unreported. We have also learned 20% of Dutch general practitioners were willing to euthanize a patient who was “tired of life.”
WHAT ABOUT CONSENT?
Recently, the Dutch Medical Association approved euthanasia for people with dementia, Alzheimer’s and loneliness. Whatever happened to euthanasia requiring consent or the person having capacity? The irony of history is during the Second World War, the Netherlands was the only occupied country whose doctors had refused, en masse, to participate in the German euthanasia program.
Euthanasia is a very emotional issue. It’s one of those issues for which there are no easy answers. Canada’s euthanasia lobby failed to legalize euthanasia through democratic process and are now looking for a sympathetic, activist judge.
I am opposed to any action or legislation that may serve to further devalue the lives of persons with disabilities. It’s this devaluation of our lives which has often been used to justify acts of violence against us even murder.
The last thing we need is for more negative stereotypes about persons living with disabilities. And while I’m opposed to the practice of euthanasia, I do believe Canadians need to have a dialogue around this important issue.