Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Let's offer humane and dignified living not lethal injection

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Psychiatrist, Dr Sephora Tang, and lawyer, Dylan McGuinty Jr, were published by the Ottawa Citizen on February 3, 2021, urging Canada to focus on humane and dignified living before offering a lethal injection.

Tang and McGuinty explain how Canada's euthanasia (MAiD) regime and it's expansion through Bill C-7 is changing healthcare and how this affects vulnerable Canadians:
Poor mental health, coupled with the stress of insufficient financial, personal and/or social supports, often leads to death wishes in people overwhelmed by their circumstances. Current pressure to remove the exclusion of mental illness as a sole eligibility criterion in Bill C-7 would make suicide prevention methods ineffective for individuals over the age of 18 who are contemplating suicide and suffering solely from psychological distress.
Dr Sephora Tang
They comment on how Bill C-7 will change Canada's euthanasia regime:
Bill C-7 will grant non-dying people assistance to end their lives after 90 days (less time if their assessor feels they may imminently lose their capacity to consent to their death) without at the same time requiring that they have reasonable access to supports needed to live a dignified life. As required by the bill, offering information about alternative care options is a far cry from being able to actually access care in a timely manner.

Lack of adequate supports is often a direct stressor that triggers suicidal death wishes in an individual, yet wait times for psychiatric services can often exceed the 90-day assessment period allotted by Bill C-7.
They make their point by commenting on a recent euthanasia death in Hamilton
The deplorable state of scarce supportive human resources has been made abundantly clear by the COVID-19 pandemic in long-term care facilities and in marginalized populations. A CBC story recently exposed the appalling conditions in which a 35-year-old Hamilton man had been living, surrounded by feces and urine, prior to having his life ended through MAiD.
Dylan McGuinty Jr
They state that society needs to offer humane and dignified living.
We would do better as a society to offer humane and dignified living before offering a lethal injection. While the federal government presumes in Bill C-7 that allowing 90 days for an assessment for MAiD for non-dying individuals is sufficient, clinical experience has revealed that some services, such as specialized residences for individuals requiring intensive support, can take years to access.

Without the necessary supports in place to parallel a permissive MAiD regime, individuals are left with the prospect of choosing between an assisted death or continuing the uphill struggle of living with inadequate supports; to place an individual in such a predicament is cruel and fundamentally unjust.
They comment on the recent United Nations Human Rights letter rejecting euthanasia for disability.
A recent report by UN human rights experts and special rapporteurs highlighted these concerns by saying: “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.”
They conclude by urging Canadian politicians to pause on Bill C-7 and then to offer humane and dignified living before offering a lethal injection.
In truth, MAiD legislation affects us all. As the current pandemic has demonstrated, our state of health is fragile, especially when exposed to prolonged stress and circumstances outside our control. If we as a society do not invest and advocate for life-affirming health care services and social supports to provide dignified living to all, we may one day come calling for help and find the only accessible option offered is death. Perhaps we should pause for a moment and reflect on whether this is truly the kind of society we wish to build as a nation; what we sow today is what we shall reap tomorrow. 

Links to more information on Bill C-7.

  • Euthanasia (MAiD) deaths in Canada continue to increase (Link). 
  • Bill C-7 is delayed until February 2021 (Link). 
  • Bill C-7 must be defeated (Link). 

1 comment:

Defend Human Life! said...

The CBC story about Chris Gladders, while properly exposing the horrific conditions at the facility where he lived, never once raises the question of how his request euthanasia was accepted as free and fully informed given his living conditions. The doctor who agreed to give him a lethal injection clearly failed to effectively advocate for and arrange the basic care that may have restored his desire to live his life to its natural end. Appalling betrayal.