OTTAWA – United Nations (UN) human rights experts are alarmed by what they believe is a growing trend to enact laws that provide medical assistance to the dying of people suffering from non-terminal, disabled conditions.
Three experts, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, say that such legislation is typically based on “performing” assumptions about the quality and value of life for a person with a disability.
In a statement released earlier this week, the experts made no explicit mention of Canada’s proposed law that would extend assisted dying to people who suffer unbearably but are not near the natural end of their lives.
However, the arguments they put forward are consistent with those put forward by Canadian disability rights advocates who are vehemently against Bill C-7.
The law was passed by the House of Commons and is currently before the Senate.
The intent is to bring the law in line with a 2019 Quebec Supreme Court ruling that enacted a provision of the law in force that only allows assisted death for those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable.
Disability is not a burden or a deficit on the person. It is a universal aspect of the human condition.UN Human Rights Council
The near-death restriction was challenged by Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, who both suffered from degenerative, disabling conditions but were not yet at the end of their lives. Judge Christine Baudouin agreed that the restriction violated their charter rights to equal treatment under the law and to life, liberty and security of the person.
The UN experts argue, however, that the extension of assisted death to people with non-terminal conditions violates Article 10 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “which states that states must ensure that people with disabilities have their inherent right to life can effectively enjoy on an equal basis with others. “
“When normalizing lifelong interventions for people who are not terminally ill or suffering at the end of their lives, such legal provisions are typically based on making assumptions about the inherent” quality of life “or” value “” about the life of a person with a disability “reads a statement issued by the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.
“Disability is not a burden or a deficit on the person. It’s a universal aspect of the human condition, ”they add.
“Under no circumstances should the law provide that it could be an educated choice for a person with a disability who is not dying to end their life with government support.”
The experts who made the statement are Gerard Quinn, the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of people with disabilities; Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights; and Claudia Mahler, who has been described as an “independent expert on the exercise of all human rights by older people”.
They argue that everyone accepts that there is no justification for “helping any other protected group – be it a racial minority, gender, or sexual minority – end their lives because they are suffering because of their status”. And they say it shouldn’t be any different for people with disabilities.
“Disability should never be a reason or justification to end one’s life, directly or indirectly.”
Even if assisted dying is limited to late-life people, they argue that people with disabilities, the elderly, and especially older people with disabilities, “can be subtly pressured to end their lives prematurely because of attitudes in society and the lack of support services to end”.
Those living in poverty might choose to seek assisted death “as a gesture of despair,” not a real choice, they say.
The government has until February 26, after receiving three extensions, to bring the law into line with Baudouin’s decision.
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee, which has already conducted a preliminary study on Bill C-7, is due to resume its study and review possible changes in three one-day sessions starting Monday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 27, 2021.
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