Open letter: A caricature of the opposition to new access to MAiD

Version française.

In its October 14 communication Le mot du président (The President’s word), by Dr. Mauril Gaudreault, the Collège des médecins du Québec, CMQ (Quebec College of Physicians) revisits the controversy surrounding its position on medical assistance in dying (MAiD) for infants aged 0-1 year: “A Canadian pro-life group drew media attention earlier this week by denouncing the position of the Collège on this issue before the Federal committee on MAiD.” This portrayal echoes media statements by one of its directors, Dr. Alain Naud, who in past interviews in his personal capacity, has described the groups opposed to the College’s position on MAiD as “religious and ideological” and “activist groups who are primarily opposed to MAiD, who (…) will distort, exaggerate, or outright invent issues”. The problem with this convenient portrait for dismissing critics is that it does not reflect reality.

The initial reaction to the “alarming” remarks of Dr. Louis Roy, the CMQ spokesperson at the meeting of the Special Joint (Senate and House of Commons of Canada) Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, came from one of the country’s largest advocacy groups for people with intellectual disabilities, Inclusion Canada. Numerous other groups and individuals, many of whom represent people living with physical and intellectual disabilities, have made the reaction a viral tweet that has led to media coverage. Not surprisingly, since the beginning of the debate about access to MAiD for people who are not at the end of their lives, most of the national associations representing them have opposed the addition of ‘disability’ to the eligibility criteria.

Clarification made by Inclusion Canada on October 19, 2022: Statement on Mischaracterization of Inclusion Canada

Advocates of new access to MAiD have long since caricatured their critics. We will leave it to others to debate the propriety of disqualifying all opposition from the outset by reducing it to pro-life and religious discourse. That is not the issue today. Opposition to the proposed new access to MAiD in Canada and Quebec comes from multiple credible sources from an incredibly wide range of backgrounds. A minority now fall into the category of those who are described as “primarily opposed to MAiD”. As part of this category since 2010, we work respectfully alongside those who agree with MAiD at the end of life, but who take a critical view of many of the proposed expansions. In addition to disability rights activists, there are academics, geriatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, palliative care experts, hospices, First Nations representatives and families whose loved ones have opted for MAiD in a nebulous way or who are considering it for socio-economic reasons, etc. The list is long.

Speeches criticizing new access to MAiD are not the prerogative of the left or the right. During the Quebec election, every major media outlet in English Canada published stories of apparent abuse following access to MAiD, experienced by people who are not at the end of life. The Toronto Star, the National Post and the Globe and Mail have published editorials questioning some of the choices being considered, and on Friday the Globe published an open letter from a resigned member of the Federal panel on medical assistance in dying.

Press review of abuses associated with new access to MAiD (stories, testimonies and editorials in Canada)

As officials work to prepare the revised version of Bill 38, which is expected to be tabled soon after the opening of the parliamentary session in Quebec City on November 29, 2022, we call for more respect and attention to the diversity of voices critical of the proposed expansions.

Jasmin Lemieux-Lefebvre
Living with Dignity Citizen Network

Note: Text published in French on all the digital platforms of the Coop de l’information (Le Soleil, La Tribune, Le Quotidien, Le Nouvelliste, La Voix de l’Est and Le Droit).
Example on Le Soleil’s website.