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Alert: Legalized euthanasia bill introduced in Quebec legislature

Inclusion BC is deeply concerned about the bill introduced into the Quebec Parliament June 12, 2013 that would legalize euthanasia.

Quebec chose to bring this controversial legislation forward while the Supreme Court of Canada deliberates on the Carter Case, which was launched on behalf of a BC woman who was seeking leave for assisted suicide. The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits assisted suicide.

Legalized euthanasia, or "medical aid in dying," the term used in the Quebec proposed legislation, threatens the safety and security people with disabilities and all who are vulnerable and marginalized including seniors.

People with disabilities, including those with developmental disabilities, are already devalued and experience discrimination accessing services, including healthcare. As healthcare costs continue to rise, treatment and interventions for those considered as “sick,” “fragile,” or “suffering” - or simply are seen not as worthy - will be at far greater risk of being withdrawn or not provided, with a real risk that people labeled in such ways may receive drugs to speed up their death. These outcomes are already compounded by scientific advances that can identify genetic markers for many disabilities and heath conditions.

This Bill represents a growing trend to measure one’s capacity and value based on what real or perceived costs they are to systems like healthcare, as well as medicalizing disability rather than focusing on accommodating disability based needs.

Inclusion BC receives regular reports from our members, people with developmental disabilities, their families and concerned community members, that all too frequently people with developmental disabilities receive second rate health care and at times are denied it altogether. Unfortunately, this is a common experience reported by people with developmental disabilities despite the Canadian Medical Association’s Code of Ethics, that prohibits discrimination in medical service against any patient on the grounds of “physical or mental disability,” and the protections inherent in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Legalizing euthanasia is a slippery slope that reinforces an all too common attitude that some human lives are less valuable than others. It is critical that the implications of such proposals upon the lives of people with developmental disabilities be fully taken into account before we move to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Reports of pressures to place "Do Not Resuscitate" (DNR) orders on the medical charts of people with developmental disabilities are all too frequent. What is of even greater concern are more discreet practises such as “slow codes” and other similar procedures in acute and long term care facilities where routine medical treatment and interventions deliberately take too long.

The broad language used in the Quebec legislation to assess who is eligible for assisted suicide/euthanasia is of particular concern; two of the four requirements are that the person is "suffering from an incurable serious illness," and an "advanced state of irreversible decline in capability." These terms are broad and undefined and do not exclude disability itself being relied upon as a justification for euthanasia.

Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2000. This Convention explicitly protects the right to life of people with disabilities; the right to the highest attainable standard of health and health care without discrimination; and the right to respect for the physical and mental integrity of people with disabilities. Legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia would threaten the human rights of people with disabilities as enumerated in the Convention.

Inclusion BC will continue to monitor developments on this front and respond accordingly.  We appreciate receiving any and all concerns you have about the treatment and care of people with disabilities.

Recommended resources include:

Key human rights and legal references:

News article and full text of proposed Quebec legislation: