Updating Of Life and Death

(26 May 2000) — The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Ontario is concerned with the possible influence that the five year report updating Of Life and Death may have on the Latimer case being heard by the Supreme Of Life and Death is scheduled to be released on 6 June 2000.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Ontario is calling for the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to do one of two things:

  1. Remove any reference to Third degree or Compassionate Homicide from the Of Life and Death five year update because:
    a. The Compassionate Homicide recommendation wasn't literally unanimous due to Senator Corbin's opposition to it,
    b. its inclusion in the update may cause undue influence amongst the Supreme Court of Canada Judges who will be hearing the Latimer case starting 14 June 2000.
  2. To delay the release of the five year update for the Of Life and Death report until after the Supreme Court of Canada has heard the Latimer case.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Ontario is urging people interested in this issue to write to the Subcommittee at: Subcommittee to Update Of Life and Death, The Senate, Ottawa Ontario, K1A 0A4 or to telephone the Committee by dialing 1-800-267-7362 and asking for one of the following Senators: Sharon Carstairs (Chairperson), Gerald Beaudoin, Lucie Pepin, Eymard Corbin, Michael Kirby, Douglas Roche, Wilbur Keon, Noel Kinsella.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Ontario has proved receptive to hearing the point of view put forward by disability activists. A member of CCD's Human Rights Committee, Dr. Gregor Wolbring, addressed the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Ontario's recent symposium held on 29 April 2000 in Toronto. Dr. Wolbring shared a disability rights analysis with the delegates. The Coalition's newsletter for May 2000 presents the following summary of Dr. Wolbring's comments:

[S]ociety views the disabled as having a poor quality of life which is full of suffering. He said, "Disabled people don't view themselves that way". Such ignorance drives the push for euthanasia for the "good" of the disabled person. He lamented that "I'm told that I am better off dead".

But it is not compassion that drives the push for euthanasia, he said, but a combination of eugenics and concern about costs. With an already cash-strapped health care system, an aging population, and fiscally concerned governments, the movement toward euthanasia for financial reasons will grow. "Euthanasia is not good for me," Wolbring said. "It's good for society."

Wolbring also explained how euthanasia and genetic testing are connected. Wolbring, a thalidomide victim, said that genetic testing and euthanasia seek to eliminate variations from the accepted norm of a healthy person. "It is estimated that 60% of all people carry a genetic defect," he warned the audience. "You should be wondering if you will be allowed to have children or continue living." Wolbring said society devalues disabled people as evidenced by statistics that show high unemployment rates and a lack of access to housing, transportation and educational opportunities for the disabled. He said this devaluation has the deadly consequence of "compassionate homicide" or doctor-assisted suicide. He called this devaluation an "animal farm philosophy" after George Orwell's book where some animals are more equal than others. He said that by not providing sufficient supports for the disabled community, society is in effect providing an "inducement to euthanasia."

Wolbring said the choice to have doctor-assisted suicide does not enhance the rights of the disabled, elderly or ill. Instead, doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia target them all. Thus the advancement of this agenda is anything but compassionate.

More From the Senate

Also in the Senate is Bill S 2, the Medical Facilitation Act, put forward by Senator Sharon Carstairs. The Bill purportedly "clarifies the law by protecting from criminal liability health care providers who act in accordance with their patient's wishes in areas of life-sustaining medical treatment and the alleviation of pain..." Section 2 of the Bill states, "No health care provider is guilty of an offense under the Criminal Code by reason only that the health care provider, for the purpose of alleviating the physical pain of a person but not to cause death, administers medication to that person in dosages that may shorten the life of that person." Alex Shadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Ontario, has called Bill S-2 "euthanasia in disguise". This is Carstairs' second attempt to have this law passed. Bill S-13 died on the Order Paper, when the last election was called.

On a number of occasions, CCD has expressed its concerns about the "Medical Facilitation Act" to Senator Carstairs. Most recently, on 24 May 2000, Jim Derksen, a member of CCD's Human Rights Committee, and Clare Simspon, CCD's Comptroller, met with Senator Carstairs in a meeting organized by ACL Manitoba to discuss Bill S-2. CCD has argued that it is people with disabilities, and not medical personnel, who are vulnerable. Take for example the case of MLPD member Mike Rosner. He went to the hospital with pneumonia expecting treatment. Various hospital doctors urged him to "let nature take its course" in other words to accept death. Canadians already have the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment. For Canadians with disabilities obtaining wanted treatment can be more difficult than rejecting unwanted measures.