The dangers of Bill 52 for people living with disabilities

Bill 52, a law concerning end of life care, represents an enormous risk for vulnerable groups such as our elderly and people with disabilities. If it is adopted, this bill could indeed apply to people with disabilities. Despite its title and what is reported by the media the eligibility criteria don't mention end-of-life. The Bills' article 26 aims to define who could access medical aid in dying. This article specifies that a person could be euthanised if he meets the following criteria :

  1. Must be fit and have reached the age of majority;
  2. Must be suffering from a serious, incurable illness;
  3. His abilities must be in a state of advanced and irreversible deterioration;
  4. Must be experiencing physical and psychological sufferings that the person judges unbearable;

From these criteria, a person living with multiple sclerosis could ask for medical aid in dying. A newly blind person could ask for it as well  (such as the case which occurred in October in the Netherlands). Who else could have access?  A paraplegic, a person with chronic depression, etc. In fact, almost anybody living with a disability, who is going through life problems, is at risk.

However, the majority of problems that are encountered by people with disabilities are largely due to a lack of access to services : no lodging, transport, hobbies, jobs, no (or poor) health services, and the list goes on. As long as we don't have access to these services, we cannot make a "choice". It is not a choice if there is no alternative.

We've been promised rigourous guidelines, but the Bill is vague. It speaks of « medical aid in dying », but the term is not defined anywhere. It speaks of « end-of-life », again without definition. There are no guidelines because it is impossible to establish proper guidelines. Bill 52 is closely modeled on the Belgian law. However, in Belgium, they started off with promises of very strict criteria. Ten years later, they are now talking of allowing euthanasia for children and people with dementia. Bill 52 has not yet been adopted and already the Collège des Médecins du Québec and the Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse have affirmed that we must extend the law to include minors and people who are unfit. What's more, in Belgium, the number of people who die of euthanasia doubles almost every four years. In 2012, 1% of deaths in Belgium were deaths by euthanasia.

We cannot remain neutral. We must fight so the government offers us the services that we need and not death.