The Canadian Government is being urged to delay plans to introduce assisted suicide for the mentally ill and children from next year.
Canada has some of the weakest protections for the elderly and vulnerable against pressure to end one’s life by assisted suicide and euthanasia. There is no requirement that a person be terminally ill to request assisted suicide or euthanasia. There were over 10,000 deaths by assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada 2021.
Now, from this year, the Canadian Government is expected to extend the existing legislation to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia on the grounds of mental illness and for “mature minors”, that is, children as young as 12.
However, human rights experts have decried the discrimination against people with disabilities that these laws create and the opposition party has urged the Government to review the legislation.
Three UN human rights experts wrote that the assisted suicide and euthanasia law in Canada had a “discriminatory impact” on people with disabilities. They also said that the law was inconsistent with Canada’s international human rights obligations.
Professor of law and disability studies at the Protestant University for Applied Sciences in Germany, Theresia Degener, said that allowing euthanasia and assisted suicide on the basis of disability alone was a clear human rights violation.
Ms Degener said “The implication of (Canada’s) law is that a life with disability is automatically less worth living and that in some cases, death is preferable”.
“Existential threat to disabled people”
In August last year, Tim Stainton, director of the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship at the University of British Columbia, described Canada’s law as “probably the biggest existential threat to disabled people since the Nazis’ program in Germany in the 1930s”.
Late last year, the Conservative shadow minister for democratic reform, Michael Cooper, said “From the beginning, Conservatives have raised serious concerns about the risks posed to Canadians by the Liberal government’s flawed legislation”.
“Instead of listening to persons with disabilities and advocates for vulnerable Canadians, the Liberal government has sidestepped them at every turn and pushed their flawed legislation through the process”.
“Literal life-or-death legislation deserves thorough review and consultation to ensure the most vulnerable people are protected”.
One in five cite loneliness as a reason to want to die
In 2021, 10,064 people ended their lives by assisted suicide and euthanasia, an increase of over 32% from the previous year, accounting for 3.3% of all deaths in Canada.
According to the latest report on Medical Assistance in Dying from Health Canada, 17.3% of people also cited “isolation or loneliness” as a reason for wanting to die. In 35.7% of cases, patients believed that they were a “burden on family, friends or caregivers”.
Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said “Assisted suicide and euthanasia are not treatments. They are not an attempt to cure a disease, heal a patient or palliate symptoms. Death is not a treatment and medical professionals should have no role in administering or encouraging it. Canada’s lax laws in this regard are a shameful corruption of the medical profession”.
“The expansion of this law to children is a further disgrace and great sadness. The legislation should not just be delayed but completely scrapped. As the data from Canada and Oregon show, many of the reasons that people provide for wanting to end their lives have nothing to do with medicine or physical ailments but relate to psychological, social and familial problems. Such people need support and assistance to live, not assistance to die.”