Taylor Hyatt has cerebral palsy and advocates for people with disabilities. 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 is concerned that a health system already inclined to present death to those with disabilities will veer even more in that direction if Bill C-7 becomes law.
“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,” she said.
Bill C-7, which has had its second reading in the House of Commons, would expand medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to the disabled or mentally ill. People living with disabilities who testified during Senate committee hearings on the bill in February 2021 said they had already had experiences in which medical practitioners pressured them to die.
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.”
A statement submitted by Gabrielle Peters, who described herself as “a disabled, poor woman,” said: “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.”
At least 15 similar incidents have been made public. CTV news released two recordings made by Roger Foley where health-care providers in London, Ont., presented him with assisted death instead of assisted home care. Foley, who has cerebellar ataxia, a brain disorder that leaves him unable to care for himself, launched a lawsuit as a result.
The accounts disturbed Manitoba Senator Don Plett, leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
“I have a real problem with, in my opinion, clearly singling out the disabled community and telling them that their life is not worth living,” Plett said in an interview.
“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.”
Plett sought to have the bill amended to make it a criminal offence for medical practitioners to discuss assisted dying with patients who did not request it. The amendment was defeated 66–18 with one abstention.
Bill C-7 was prompted by the 2019 decision of Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin, a case whose plaintiffs included Jean Truchon, who had cerebral palsy. “He can no longer live on his own. … He says he has been dead since 2012,” Baudouin wrote.
Senators voted 57–21 on Feb. 11 to amend the bill to add mental illness as an eligible condition for MAiD. 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,” he said.
Last November, an Angus Reid poll commissioned by the Cardus think tank found that 69 percent of Canadians were concerned that an expanded MAiD could lead those with mental health issues to choose death instead of dealing with their condition.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said the Netherlands and Belgium allow euthanasia for mental illness, but with stricter conditions, including a year’s wait.
“In that one year, you must try all effective known treatments,” he said. “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.”
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.
Except for its exclusion of minors, C-7 is the most liberal euthanasia legislation in the world, he said.
Schadenberg added that MAiD has already caused substantial grief.
“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,” he said.
“They’re not happy about it, but they’re also emotionally distraught by the situation, and they don’t want their stories told.”