Monday, July 9, 2012
How about the right to cry for help? Court ruling asserting a person’s right to assisted suicide reflects discriminatory attitudes toward the disabled
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
By Diane Coleman & Not Dead Yet
Canadian assisted suicide proponents lost a bid to legalize assisted suicide through Parliament last year. This year, they turned to the courts to challenge Canada’s laws against assisted suicide and euthanasia as unconstitutional. The case is now before the Canadian court in Vancouver and the proceedings began November 14, 2011. Plaintiffs include a woman with ALS.
The public debate is well underway. On November 13, the Calgary Herald published an op ed by three opponents of legalization entitled “Why we should be afraid of assisted suicide.” The authors describe the case as follows:
Carter vs. Attorney General of Canada brings a constitutional challenge to Canada's laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia. The case also seeks to legalize these practices as a medical treatment. Last year, a bill in Parliament seeking a similar result was overwhelmingly defeated…. The vote was 228 to 59.
Carter seeks to allow a medical practitioner or a person "acting under the general supervision of a medical practitioner" to assist a patient's suicide. … In the context of traditional medical treatment, "a person acting under the general supervision of a medical practitioner" would include a family member. …
As the authors point out, eligibility would not be limited to people whose condition is terminal:
In Carter, the amended notice of civil claim argues that laws prohibiting physician-assisted suicide are unconstitutional for patients who are "grievously and irremediably ill." The term is not defined. The amended notice of civil claim does, however, give these examples of qualifying diseases/ conditions: "cancer, chronic renal failure and/or cardiac failure, and degenerative neurological diseases such as Huntington's disease and multiple sclerosis." The phrase "grievously and irremediably ill" would also appear to apply to chronic conditions such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS. People who have these diseases and conditions can have years and, sometimes, decades to live.
In response to this op ed, James Swanson, a man with a severely disabled father and friend, sent an angry letter filled with the rhetoric of disability bigotry, which the Herald’s editors entitled “Trapped alive”:
Monday, November 28, 2011
Letter-writer Anneke Jansen thinks her two severely disabled sons would be better off dead (Bring An End To My Children’s ‘So-Called’ Life, Nov. 23). I give thanks every day that my disabled twin brother is alive.
Due to complications at birth, he is still in diapers and fed via a feeding tube even though he’s 39. He gets around in a wheelchair only when pushed by someone else. He can’t talk, and yet, he has taught me more about what it means to be human than anyone else I know.
Though the euthanasia question is framed in the language of choice and personal autonomy, the legalization of assisted suicide endangers those with no voice.
In Belgium, one-third of euthanasia deaths done by doctors occur without the explicit request of the person killed, according to a 2010 study of euthanasia in Belgium. Why? Some doctors decided for the patient that euthanasia was the best option. Though hard to believe, others thought the conversation about dying would be too stressful for the patient, so they killed them instead.
In Switzerland, a 23-year-old rugby player, paralyzed as a result of a training accident, was depressed. Who wouldn’t be? He was euthanized despite research that shows people with a spinal cord injury can and do create a satisfying quality of life with time and proper societal and family support.
Reports from the Netherlands indicate that 500 people died without their consent in 2005 alone. A woman in the advanced stages of dementia was recently euthanized there. A long-time supporter of euthanasia, doctors killed her even though she was incapable of deciding for or against the euthanasia decision at the time of her death.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
By Diane Coleman, Calgary Herald - November 23, 2011
Re: "Trapped alive," Letter, Nov. 21.
James G. Swanson's letter demonstrates the profound devaluation that too many feel toward those of us with severe physical disabilities. Swanson describes his father and a friend, disabled by an accident and ALS, respectively, as "trapped" and "condemned to a life in hell." Social messages that one is "better off dead than disabled" permeate society, including our families.
Swanson's solution to the so-called problem of disability is assisted suicide. Like most, he hasn't noticed the difference between suicide and assisted suicide. Apparently, he doesn't think it matters if someone's family views their life as devoid of quality. There's no sign of concern that we might feel that our existence is a burden to those closest to us. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities rightly opposes assisted suicide. A society that not only agrees with a disabled person's suicide, but guarantees that our suicide attempt results in death, is not treating us as equals. We deserve the same suicide prevention as everybody else, not a streamlined path to death.
Diane Coleman, Rochester, N.Y. Diane Coleman is the founder of the disability rights organization Not Dead Yet.