Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Disability is not a reason to sanction euthanasia.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

United Nations experts published a press release yesterday expressing alarm at a growing trend of nations enacting legislation enabling access to medically assisted dying based largely on having a disability or disabling conditions, including old age (Link to the Press Release).

The timing of this statement should cause the Canadian government to rewrite Bill C-7, which expands Canada's euthanasia law by eliminating the terminal illness requirement and permitting euthanasia for people with chronic or conditions related to disability.

In April 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities expressed concern about Canada's euthanasia law (Link). 

In March 2020, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities expressed concern about the world wide growth of euthanasia, assisted suicide and eugenics (Link).

UN experts, Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities;, Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; and Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, stated that the rights of people with disabilities are being infringed by euthanasia legislation. They stated:

“We all accept that it could never be a well-reasoned decision for a person belonging to any other protected group – be it a racial minority, gender or sexual minorities - to end their lives because they experience suffering on account of their status,” the experts said.

“Disability should never be a ground or justification to end someone’s life directly or indirectly.”

Such legislative provisions would institutionalize and legally authorize ableism, and directly violate Article 10 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires States to ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively enjoy their inherent right to life on an equal basis with others.

The experts said that when life-ending interventions are normalised for people who are not terminally ill or suffering at the end of their lives, such legislative provisions tend to rest on - or draw strength from - ableist assumptions about the inherent ‘quality of life’ or ‘worth’ of the life of a person with a disability.

“These assumptions, which are grounded in ableism and associated stereotypes, have been decisively rejected by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Disability is not a burden or a deficit of the person. It is a universal aspect of the human condition.

“Under no circumstance should the law provide that it could be a well-reasoned decision for a person with a disabling condition who is not dying to terminate their life with the support of the State.”

The experts said that even when access to medical assistance in dying is restricted to those at the end of life or with a terminal illness, people with disabilities, older persons, and especially older persons with disabilities, may feel subtly pressured to end their lives prematurely due to attitudinal barriers as well as the lack of appropriate services and support.

“The proportion of people with disabilities living in poverty is significantly higher, and in some countries double, than that of people without disabilities,” they said. “People with disabilities condemned to live in poverty due to the lack of adequate social protection can decide to end their lives as a gesture of despair. Set against the legacy of accumulated disadvantages their ‘architecture of choice’ could hardly be said to be unproblematic.”

The experts also expressed concern at the lack of involvement of people with disabilities, as well their representative organizations, in drafting such legislation. “It is paramount that the voices of people with disabilities of all ages and backgrounds are heard when drafting laws, policies and regulations that affect their rights, and especially when we talk about the right to life,” they said.

“Ensuring that people with disabilities and their representative organisations participate meaningfully in key legislative processes affecting them, including with regard to assisted dying, is a key component of States’ obligations to promote, protect and fulfill human rights and respect everyone’s right to life on an equal basis.
The time has come to challenge the euthanasia laws in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Canada to the United Nations. Clearly these laws are grounded in ableism and associated stereotypes that have been rejected by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilies.


Nancy said...

Thanks, Alex ! Good work! A link to a petition would be ideal.

karen moresby-white said...

Excellent. Coming from the UN I am surprised and pleased. If this Euthenasia trend continues yhen those government heads are no better than the nazi regime who did exactly the same. In fact abortion on demand is even more barbaric than this.

Hilary Edwards said...

Amazing and encouraging that this excellent proposal should come from the UN. I endorse it. Indeed the heinous legalisationi permitting euthanasia for any reason is inhuman. To suggest it for those with disabilities certainly is a repeat of the Hitler/Nazi regime. Let us take a stand with the proposal to prevent this, or any reason for the practise of euthanasia.

Geo.Epp said...

“Under no circumstance should the law provide that it could be a well-reasoned decision for a person with a disabling condition who is not dying to terminate their life with the support of the State.” to me, this argument is a red herring. Able bodied and disabled have a right to end their lives as a choice, and many do. Much as opponents of the legislation like to call it "euthenasia" the inflicting of death based on an outside assessment is not intended here.The implication that there will inevitably be a conspiracy among politicos and mediocos to rid us of the burden of caring for the diabled shows little faith in the integrity of our fellow Canadians.

Mrs. Murray. said...

Euthenasia should NEVER BE ALLOWED for people with Disabilities.Disbabilities have a right to live in this world, no matter what country they are from.
WE ARE ALL SPECIAL IN GODS EYES, and that includes disabilties.

We've got a daughter with disabilities, and NO WAY WOULD WE STAND FOR THAT. I don't care what you beleive, and what religion you are. Euthenasia is SO WRONG. No country shoud put pressure on, these lovley people who have disabilities, plus look at the stress that's been put on the family, and older people and any age of disabilities. We feel strong that there's to many countries that want to go that way. THIS IS JUST NOT ON. We all have rights.

Lori said...

Happy to hear that the UN is taking a stand against this evil law being passed in several countries. Our governments need to know that we should be involved in any decisions like this and our petitions not ignored because they think they have the right not to give us care for disability or palliative care for those who desire to die a natural death. Stop the murder of innocent lives. This is not assisted suicide. Blantant evil!!!