Responding to Dying with Dignity: Sobsey and Wolbring Speak Out

(November 3, 1997) — We would like to comment on a statement that the Calgary Herald printed by Marilynne Seguin, a founding member of Dying with Dignity who is quoted in the article saying "a few vocal disabled groups have been speaking loudly and meddling in the case. I don't know how Mr. Latimer can receive justice. He has suffered in so many ways and to such a degree none of us could even imagine it."

We were shocked by her remark but not surprised. When Sue Rodriguez asked for assisted suicide several years ago the issue of "death with dignity" was framed around terminal illness and self-determination by a competent individual. Even then, many people in the disability rights movement opposed voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide because they believed that this would begin a slide down a slippery slope that would put the most vulnerable people in jeopardy. Very few of them, however, could have predicted how far we have slid down that slope in a few short years.

Today, the term terminal-illness has been replaced by incurable condition. Pain is now defined as any physical or emotional distress. Competence and consent are no longer required, and others can now make a decision for us about whether or not our lives are worth living.

Robert Latimer is alleged to have killed his daughter who was NOT terminally ill, who never asked to be killed, and never consented to her father's decision.

Marilynne Seguin defends Latimer and criticizes the disability rights movement for "meddling in the case" by asking that the same laws that protect every other citizen be enforced when crimes are committed against people with disabilities. Her statements show very clearly that people with disabilities and others concerned about them can't trust the arguments of the right-to-die movement.

Seguin shows the real face of the right-to-die movement. She claims that no one knows what it was like to be Tracy Latimer. She tells us no one (particularly not other people with disabilities) has the right to speak for Tracy Latimer, but Seguin goes on to speak for Tracy Latimer by telling us that Tracy Latimer's life was not worth living and not worth protecting.

Did Tracy Latimer tell her that?

Ms. Seguin also tells us that Mr. Latimer is suffering more than we can even imagine. She also tells us that it is sometimes acceptable to kill another human being to end his or her suffering even when he or she does not ask to be killed. Of course, it would be outrageous for someone to suggest taking Mr. Latimer's life to end his suffering. It is no less outrageous to use the same logic to the taking of his daughter's life or the life of another individual with a disability.

Many people suffer in this world. Some are homeless. Some are poor. Some are victims of discrimination. Some are ill. Some are friendless. Some are healthy and wealthy but desperately unhappy for reasons known only to themselves. Research has clearly demonstrated that people with severe disabilities are no more or less happy than people without disabilities.

Under Canadian law every life deserves equal protection. The same law that protects every other Canadian must protect the homeless, the poor, the victim of discrimination, and the friendless. We do not believe that people with disabilities deserve anything less.

Robert Latimer deserves a fair trial. He is entitled to every defense that the law allows, but Seguin argues that we should ignore the law because the child Mr. Latimer is alleged to have killed had a severe disability. We believe that justice should take its normal course. Who do you think is meddling?

Dick Sobsey,
JP Das Developmental Disabilities Centre
University of Alberta

Dr. Gregor Wolbring,
Human Rights Committee

Council of Canadians with Disabilities
University of Calgary
403) 220-5448

ACL Manitoba Speaks Out

The Association for Community Living (ACL)- Manitoba passed unanimously the following resolution at its Annual General Meeting which was held in Winnipeg on 18 October 1997.


All human life is inherently worth living,

Individuals who live with a disability must receive adequate supports in order to live well,

In recent years, individuals who live with a disability have been killed by family members or other caregivers,


Many of these individuals have been children or vulnerable adults, who rely on others for their care and protection.


Canadians who live with a disability should enjoy the right to live a full life that is valued, supported and protected. All efforts to end the lives of Canadians with disabilities should be condemned: killing people who live with a disability, whatever the intent or motivation, can never be justified.

ACL-Manitoba Division
210-500 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3C 3X1
Tel: 204-786-1607
Fax: 204-789-9850