Like all the groups and individuals who spoke out in the hope that Bill C-7 will be amended to better protect the most vulnerable people from “medical assistance in dying” (MAID), Living with Dignity and the Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia are deeply concerned about the outcome of yesterday’s preliminary vote (at report stage) by Members of Parliament.
Yesterday, on the World Day of Persons with Disabilities, Canadians living with disabilities were reminded that with Bill C-7, they would have the right to access MAID. Yet, all the national groups representing them have opposed this and have asked an excellent question: Why us?
“Who will be the next groups targeted? People with mental illness? Those with neurodegenerative disorders? Minors? By removing the end-of-life criteria required to access MAID, it will now be exceedingly difficult not to extend this so-called “right” to other citizens in the months and years to come,” said Mr. Alex King, President of Living with Dignity.
Pressure is now mounting on the Senate, which in turn must vote on whether or not to pass Bill C-7. It appears that several Senators want to amend the bill to add mental illness alone as a MAID admission criteria. After the outcry caused by this idea in Quebec last January, we believe it is absolutely unreasonable to even consider offering MAID to people suffering from mental illness.
“People suffering from mental illness deserve to be offered professional help, not death,” continued Mr. King. “We are fast becoming a society where those who seek assistance when they are suffering and vulnerable will be offered death as a solution to their pain. What is next? Will suicide helplines be obliged to tell those who call for help that one option is a medically assisted death? Physicians are on the front line dealing with vulnerable Canadians; they should not be offering death, regardless of whether we describe it as care or medical assistance.” .
Dr. Catherine Ferrier, President of the Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia encourages Senators “to amend C-7 to prohibit offering MAID to a patient who has not requested it (as the Minister for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, Ms. Carla Qualtrough, has already suggested) and to require that all other possible means to relieve suffering be made available, tried and found ineffective before considering MAID.”
It should be noted that, at report stage, 103 Members of Parliament voted against Bill C-7 yesterday, while 213 Members voted in favour. This proposed bill removes the end-of-life criteria and several of the safeguards that were deemed essential by parliamentarians when Canada legalized MAID only four years ago.
The development of palliative care must now become a national priority. Solutions other than euthanasia must be made available to those who are suffering. As with all people in distress, they deserve to be reminded of their inalterable dignity with kindness and love. It is a matter of justice and solidarity.