Opinion: “Death-on-Demand”—Problems with the Trudeau government's Bill C-7
Originally published July 16, 2020.
In September 2019, a Quebec Superior Court judge struck down a restriction that limited assisted suicide to ill patients.
Responding to a constitutional challenge filed by Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu, two Québécois with spastic cerebral palsy and paralysis respectively, Justice Christine Baudouin ruled that “...denying them access to assisted dying because they are not terminally ill is forcing them to endure harsh physical and psychological suffering.” Baudouin’s ruling was celebrated by the Trudeau government and could potentially reverberate across Canada, leading to the nationwide expansion of euthanasia.
Canadian disability advocates have argued that Baudouin’s judgment could jeopardize the value of their own lives. “People with disabilities have been told, with this decision, that simply having a disability is reason enough for us to want to die," said Amy Hasbrouck, director of Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet, a project of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. TVNDY is a non-religious NPO voicing the concerns of disabled Canadians and strongly opposes euthanasia.
As worrying as it is that one single judge—an unelected Trudeau appointee, no less—can change euthanasia laws for all Canadians, the Baudouin ruling is just one example of a dishonest judicial process in Canada that undermines the sanctity of human life. Bill C-7, which is to build upon the Baudouin ruling, will repeal the provision that requires a person’s natural death be reasonably foreseeable in order for them to be eligible for medical assistance in dying, and permits medical assistance in dying to be provided to a person who has been found eligible to receive it.
In simple terms, this bill, to be passed as soon as Parliament returns to normalcy amid the COVID pandemic, will bring Canada one step closer to ‘death-on-demand.’ This brings up problems of “euthanasia without consent,” where risks of “legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia for marginalized groups are ‘likely to be extraordinary’ given that the health care system and society ‘cannot effectively protect against the impact of inadequate resources and ingrained social disadvantage.’” In American states where euthanasia has been legalized, insurance companies have offered to pay for assisted suicide drugs rather than pay for costly medical treatment. There have also been instances of family members pressuring sick relatives into choosing suicide. According to Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, a New York commission investigating assisted suicide found that there was one case of killing without consent for every three or four who died in consensual euthanasia in the Netherlands.
As Baudouin ruled that existing euthanasia law (passed by Trudeau himself in 2016) is too restrictive, limiting the possibility of assisted suicide to those whose deaths are ‘reasonably foreseeable,’ Bill C-7 will go a step further in making the only criterion “intolerable suffering,” a vague and undefined term that will loosen up restrictions and safeguards against euthanasia.
The Campaign Life Coalition, a socially conservative political lobbyist organization, summarized the bill as achieving the following:
A person can be euthanized who is NOT actually dying. This includes anyone living with a disability, illness, or disease that is treatable or even curable. The only criterion is that the person experiences “physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable” (whatever that means).
A person whose death is “reasonably foreseeable” (whatever that means) can be euthanized immediately – on the spot. He/she will not be required to have any time to reconsider.
Another person can sign your euthanasia request for you if you are unable to sign it yourself, with only one witness required. This is sure to lead to abuse.
If you try to kill yourself with euthanasia drugs, and the drugs only knock you out, a nurse or doctor can finish you off. They are not obliged to help you live, recover, or reconsider.
A person can be euthanized without asking for it if he/she is deemed “incapable of giving consent” (whatever that means) so long as he/she provided consent at some time in the past – even if it was years ago and even if there might have been a change of heart. These people will not be allowed to revoke their euthanasia decision.
A person must not be euthanized if he/she demonstrates “by words, sounds or gestures” that he/she does not want a lethal drug. However, if the “words, sounds or gestures” are deemed “involuntary” (whatever that means), the person can still be euthanized. In other words, here is the perfect excuse to ignore a person’s objections.
A person cannot be euthanized for a specific “mental illness”, but he/she may be euthanized if his/her “psychological suffering” is “intolerable to them” (whatever that means).
A person only needs to be “informed of the means available to relieve their suffering.” However, he/she does not actually have to try out any of those life-affirming services before being euthanized.
Rather than trying to honour Bill C-7’s statement that “…Canada is a State Party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and recognizes its obligations under it, including in respect of the right to life” through the legalization of euthanasia, perhaps we should proceed about this the proper way.
Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, found “significant shortcomings in the way the federal, provincial and territorial governments respect, protect and fulfill the rights of persons with disabilities.” As Canada’s Christian Legal Fellowship has asserted, we ought to respond to these concerns by “prioritiz[ing] efforts to provide Canadians with medical assistance in living before rushing to expand, and removing safeguards around, medical assistance in dying.”