Fletcher is bringing this bill forward as the Supreme Court of Canada considers the Carter Case, in which the BC Court of Appeals overturned an attempt to legalize assisted suicide through use of the courts.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equal rights to people with physical and intellectual disabilities, including the right to life. “The Charter was never intended, nor should it ever be used to justify, assisted suicide. It was intended to uphold the rights of all people, including people with disabilities, to full citizenship and human rights,” said Faith Bodnar, Executive Director of Inclusion BC.
The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits assisted suicide; Inclusion BC sees assisted suicide as a threat to the safety, security, equality and lives of people with developmental disabilities and all who are vulnerable and marginalized.
“People with disabilities of all kinds are devalued and discriminated against in access to services, and consistently report lower levels of access to health care and preventive medicine. In a country which has legalized assisted suicide, those who are labelled as ‘fragile’ or ‘suffering,’ or whose lives are devalued, will be at far greater risk of being encouraged to accept suicide as an option,” said Annette Delaplace, President of inclusion BC.
“Our society already devalues people with disabilities, who struggle to receive supports needed to live full lives. We have a responsibility to change our society to stop valuing some lives above others, rather than creating a system that encourages marginalized people to end their lives. It is critical that the impact of bills like this upon the lives of people with developmental disabilities is fully taken into account before any action to legalize assisted suicide,” said Bodnar.
Disability is frequently medicalized rather than focusing on how our society can accommodate disability-related needs and support every person to have a good life. We are deeply concerned that the value of individuals and their capacity will be based on the real or perceived costs to systems like the health system rather than fundamental human rights and equality.
People with physical and intellectual disabilities are guaranteed equal rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ratified by Canada in 2010), as well as the Canadian Medical Association’s code of ethics.
Unfortunately, however, Inclusion BC far too often receives reports from people with developmental disabilities, their families and our members that people with developmental disabilities receive second-rate health care, or are denied appropriate and supportive treatment. We also receive reports of pressure to place “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) orders on the medical charts of people with developmental disabilities, as well as the use of “slow codes” in acute and long term care facilities, where medical interventions take too long to preserve life in an effective manner.
Executive Director, Inclusion BC
Recommended resources include:
- Inclusion BC social policy on euthanasia
- Inclusion BC Social policy on DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders
- Canadian Association for Community Living: Ruling on Assisted Suicide raises profound concerns for Canadians with disabilities
- Inclusion International
- Toujours vivant/Not Dead Yet (a project of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities) FAQ
Key human rights and legal references: