LWD’s submission presented online to the Special Joint Committee in late August is copied below. We are sharing it here with our readers in hopes that each of you will find a way to make your voices heard by the Committee when it resumes hearings this month. The clerks who handle submissions to the committee can be contacted here. Rules for submissions to government can be found here. It can’t hurt to try to explain to the committee what you think they’re not understanding or taking into account. Your own words are the best. We don’t mind if you borrow some of ours, but the more you can make it your own, the better! Be aware that there is no guarantee that the Committee will see your presentation, but there are bureaucrats and advocates who do read every submission. So weigh in!
If you want to send us a copy of your submission, please feel free to do so. Let us know if you want to keep it private or if you would like it shared.
Submission to the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying
August 23, 2022
To the attention of all Joint Committee members reviewing Canada’s MAID legislation.
This brief is submitted on behalf of our organization, Living With Dignity Canada. Our particular concerns are with the inclusion of disability and mental illness as reasons for MAID administered to people who are not dying.
The committee has heard from a lot of individuals and organizations who stand in opposition to the changes in the law codified through Bill C-7. It is our view that, in fact, people with disabilities and people with mental health conditions, who were dying from their conditions, were already covered by Bill C-14.
The creation of a second track specifically targeting them was unnecessary, discriminatory, unethical and wrong. If Medical Assistance in Dying is not for people who are dying, then it is mis-named. If people who are not dying are applying for assistance with premature death, then they are asking for assistance in completing suicide. Therefore, the act must be named as such. It is Assisted Suicide, NOT Track 2 MAID.
However, no matter what you choose to call it, we do not believe that the government should be involved in any way with assisting suicide, or ending lives of people who are not naturally dying. Nor should the government be exonerating doctors and/or nurse practitioners who accede to requests to end lives which are not naturally ending. We find it deplorable that the government has invested millions of dollars in creating a life-ending system and training its practitioners, when they have failed to invest, in any comparable way, in life-supporting systems.
The support systems that disabled people and people with mental illnesses want and need can be expensive and difficult to access. The life-ending system is much less so. Health and personal care, adaptive equipment, safe and affordable housing, income and employment supports are all doable, but they are not free. However, we believe that most Canadians, if they clearly understood the situation, would reject the notion that vulnerable lives should be ended in order to save life-supporting systems money. Everyone wants low taxes, but not at the cost of endangering and snuffing out the lives of people with disabilities and/or mental illness.
We believe that the Committee has failed to understand the point of view of parents struggling to keep their desperately depressed and despondent children alive in the face of a pandemic and its disruptions, climate change and its devastations, war, the threat of war and nuclear annihilation, cultural and actual genocide, the legacies of colonialism, and other major social problems. Young people facing a dim and shaky future cannot be labelled “mentally ill” and then euthanized to keep them quiet. That’s just wrong.
The last thing a person of any age needs when their world seems bleak is for a doctor or nurse to agree with them that their situation is hopeless, and offer death as a socially-acceptable “treatment”. To have the government colluding in this gross malpractice is deplorable!
Let us be clear: Death is not a treatment. It is the end of all treatment efforts. A death-wish may be a short-circuit that starts in the mind of the person with the imputed illness, but when it ends at the hands of the professionals who are tasked with helping them out of their short-circuited thinking process, that is sick. Socially and politically sick.
People with disabilities and mental illnesses may fall into suicidal thinking, as may people without disabilities. The proper response to this problem, in a truly compassionate society, is not to collude with hopelessness, but to help and assist the person to stay alive, get their survival needs met, and find different mental pathways to wellness and fulfilling life.
We believe that it is not too late for Senators and Parliamentarians to reconsider and retract the error into which they have fallen. Bill C-7 should be repealed. But more urgently, the law allowing doctors and nurses to end the lives of people with mental illness must be stopped now.
It is not too late.
Living With Dignity Canada is a registered non-profit organization that brings together people with disabilities and their allies and supporters in a collective expression of opposition to the expansion of MAID to people who are not dying. We are committed to public education, emergency relief and support of community well-being and pride.