On February 6, 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada issued a horrific ruling in the case of Carter v. Canada. How horrific? The Court held:
Section 241 (b) and s. 14 of the Criminal Code unjustifiably infringe s. 7 of the Charter and are of no force or effect to the extent that they prohibit physician‑assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.
The Court gave the Canadian Legislature one year to act on this ruling. A federal panel was formed to gather input. With the assistance of Toujours Vivant/Not Dead Yet Canada, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities submitted goals, principles and recommendations to the panel on October 7th. Not Dead Yet (USA) submitted a Statement to the Canadian panel on October 14. The Executive Summary of NDY’s Statement is below.
October 19 is the deadline for formal online submissions to the panel, but “Issue Book” submissions to the panel can be made until November 1st, by going to the panel’s web portal.
Not Dead Yet is a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination against old, ill and disabled people. Not Dead Yet helps organize and articulate opposition to these practices in the United States based on secular social justice arguments. Not Dead Yet also demands the equal protection of the law for the targets of so called “mercy killing” whose lives are seen as worth-less.
This submission to the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada will focus on the Panel’s “key issue” in Terms of Reference Section 3.2 (c): “Risks to individuals and society associated with physician-assisted dying.” We will discuss the evidence coming from Oregon, the earliest of the four U.S. states to legalize assisted suicide, and outline the concerns of the disability community.
Regardless of our abilities or disabilities, none of us should feel that we have to die to have dignity, that we have to die to be relieved of pain, or that we should die to stop burdening our families or society. The realities of assisted suicide implementation in Oregon and three other U.S. states demonstrate the urgency of limiting the harms done by the Canadian Supreme Court ruling.
With that goal, we have two recommendations:
- Adopt the detailed Goals, Principles and Recommendations submitted by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD),[i] which demonstrate a well-informed, evidence based and reasoned approach to reducing the dangers that will inevitably flow from implementation of Carter v. Canada. In order to completely incorporate CCD’s recommendations, direct consultation with a representative of CCD in drafting the legislation is necessary.
- Provide training, guidance and encouragement to law enforcement agencies to exercise their existing level of authority to prosecute physicians and others involved in an assisted suicide or euthanasia death, while allowing those prosecuted to defend themselves by proving that the guidelines submitted by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities were met.