Latimer Watch: September 10, 1998


Minister of Health Speaks Out on Euthanasia

21 V 1998

Mr. Eric Norman
Council of Canadians with Disabilities
926-294 Portage Ave
Winnipeg, MB
R3C 0B9

Dear Mr. Norman:

Thank you for your letter concerning your views on euthanasia.

A variety of studies have been conducted on the difficult issue of death and dying among seriously ill patients. Many of these show that poor symptom control, lack of adequate levels of social support , clinical depression (which is potentially treatable) are factors that lead to an increased desire for death. I believe that the focus of our attention at this point in time should be on improving the care and support that we provide to seriously ill and disabled persons and their families. This should help to minimize the number who reach a state in which they would choose death over life, and on communicating to the public about the care choices that they do have when facing serious illness.

The Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, in its report released on June 6, 1995, took a holistic view of the issues and recognized that the discussion of euthanasia and assisted suicide should not be divorced from the broader context of the quality and availability of care. The Special Senate Committee recommended that the development of palliative care service should be a priority, and the majority decided against recommending the legalization of assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.

My department has a long history of initiatives in palliative care, and I am continuing to explore the opportunities to facilitate the ongoing development of this care in Canada. As Minister of Health, it is my responsibility to advocate not for the hastening of death, but rather for improvements to the quality of care and the degree of comfort that can be achieved in the face of serious disability and illness.

Thank you for having taken the time to write on this important issue.

Yours very truly,

Allan Rock

The Fall Agenda

Community of Persons with Disabilities Seeks to Intervene in Latimer Appeal

CCD along with the Canadian Association for Community Living, People First, DisAbled Women's Network Canada, the Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities and People in Equal Participation are seeking status as intervenors in Robert Latimer's second appeal of his sentence for killing Tracy Latimer. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has not yet scheduled the appeal.

Impact Study on Sentencing

The Court Challenges Program has granted CCD research funding to investigate the impact of Robert Latimer's sentence, and other sentences, on the equality rights of people with disabilities. Robert Latimer received a constitutional exemption which relieved him of the burden of serving the mandatory sentence for second degree murder. The sentence imposed by the court in December would see Latimer serve less than two years for the killing of Tracy. The mandatory sentence is 10 years without parole.

Summer Course Being Developed

CCD Human Rights Committee member Jim Derksen and CCD Council member David Martin are working with representatives from the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies to prepare a summer institute on end of life issues as they affect persons with disabilities. The credit course which will be offered through the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba will examine such issues as eugenics, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. For more information on the course contact Susan Gray at 204-287-8411 at CCDS.

Genereux Case

CCD's Human Rights Committee is monitoring the Genereux Case and is preparing itself to intervene in this case.

MLPD Memorial Monument for Tracy Latimer

The Tracy Latimer Memorial Monument Committee has settled on a design for its monument and is now in the process of seeking a site for this tribute to Tracy. The monument will include the following inscription: "This monument is raised in the spirit of Justice. To remember all persons with disabilities who have been killed by people seeking to excuse their terrible acts with the mistaken notion of mercy. To reaffirm the capacity of all persons to respect others' equal right to live their unique lives."

(Contributions should be addressed to the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities, 200-294 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg MB, R3C 0B9.)