Thursday, August 18, 2022

Will future Canadians apologize to people with disabilities for euthanasia?

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Charles Lane
Charles Lane wrote an insightful opinion article that was published by the Washington Post on August 17, 2022 titled: Will future Canadians owe the disabled an apology for euthanasia? Lane bases his article on the recent apology by Pope Francis to Canada's Indigenous community and relates it to the recent cases of people with disabilities who are living in poverty or with mental illness dying by euthanasia.

Lane writes:
These permissive standards may be resulting in avoidable death or distress for vulnerable people, and disability rights advocates are expressing concern, as Maria Cheng of the Associated Press reported Aug. 11.

She told the story of 61-year-old Alan Nichols, who requested — and received — euthanasia less than a month after entering a British Columbia hospital in June 2019 suffering from suicidal thoughts, dehydration and malnutrition. The decision was apparently based on a medical history that included serious but typically non-life-threatening conditions such as depression and hearing loss.

His grief-stricken family has sought explanations as to how doctors could have found their loved one competent to “choose” death much less needful of it. “Somebody needs to take responsibility so that it never happens to another family,” Trish Nichols, Alan’s sister-in-law, told Cheng.

Cheng described the case of a man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, who felt driven to seek euthanasia because British Columbia officials would not provide him adequate support to live at home. In a case separately reported by Canadian media this year, a 31-year-old Toronto woman with a disability sought and received approval for euthanasia after what she said was a futile search for safe housing — only to decide to continue living after private parties helped her find an appropriate dwelling.
Lane also reports Cheng as writing that Canada does not require people to attempt effective treatments before dying by euthanasia, which is likely to lead to euthanasia for people who could have got better. Lane also refers to Cheng stating that:
Last year, a top United Nations disability rights official wrote to Trudeau advising him that legalizing euthanasia for the non-terminally ill creates an implied negative judgment on “the value or quality of life of persons with disabilities.”
There have been more sad stories of people with disabilities or those with mental illness or poverty, being urged to consider, being approved for, and/or dying by euthanasia.

Here are some links to some of these stories:
  • Veterans affairs worker advocates euthanasia for PTSD (Link).
  • Shopping for doctor death in Canada (Link).
  • Gwen is seeking euthanasia because she can't access medical treatment (Link).
  • Euthanasia for disability and poverty (Link).
  • Euthanasia for Long Covid and poverty (Link).
  • Canada's MAiD law is the most permissive in the world. (Link).
Lane then writes that Canada is expanding euthanasia to people with mental illness alone which he says is "a practice that has led to controversy over alleged abuses in Belgium and the Netherlands." Lane concludes:
"One of the most haunting aspects of the Canadian Indian Residential School system was that one of Canada’s worst historical crimes was managed and defended by people who fervently believed they were doing the right thing for ‘the Indian,’” Tristin Hopper wrote in the National Post last year.

As they expand euthanasia today, Canadians should bear in mind that they, too, are subject to the law of unintended consequences and to the judgment of future generations.
Either future Canadians will apologize for euthanizing people with disabilities, mental illness, the poor and the chronically ill, or our culture will become hardened to the needs of others and the culture will expect people in these circumstances to die.

1 comment:

David Falk said...

How true. I was expecting legal recourse for abuses of these euthanasia laws to come 5-10 years down the line but they are coming much sooner. Why? There are medical ambiguities of “right” and “wrong”. There are medical practitioners who consider power more important than care. There are medical practitioners who want to please society more than ethical principles. There are medical practitioners who feel their are a failure if they do not “eliminate” suffering. There are minimal medical association consequences to abuse of this law. Canada has already overstepped it’s ethical medical decision in history. Sterilization of handicapped and mentally disabled persons in Alberta institutions comes to mind. It is not only Indigenous Residential Schools extremes.

Can we hold, not only the medical profession, legally accountable, but can we not hold the government officials and legal system accountable for these abuses as well?