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Disability cannot be grounds for voluntary euthanasia, UN officials say

January 27, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2021 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- A disability rights organization praised United Nations human rights experts for condemning voluntary euthanasia on the basis of disability.


On Monday, three UN human rights experts issued a joint statement condemning the “growing trend” of countries that extend legal assisted suicide to people who have disabilities, but who do not have a terminal condition. 


They added that a disability “should never be a ground or justification to end someone’s life directly or indirectly, and that a government “[u]nder no circumstance” should help “a person with a disabling condition who is not dying to terminate their life.”


In response, Diane Coleman, president of the disability rights organization Not Dead Yet, praised the decision of UN officials. 


“Every major U.S. national disability group that has taken a position on assisted suicide laws opposes them for the very compelling reasons expressed by the United Nations Office of Human Rights,” Coleman told CNA on Wednesday. 


Throughout parts of western Europe, it is legal for a disabled person who is not terminally ill to request and receive euthanasia. Canada is currently considering Bill C-7, which would permit those who do not have a “reasonably foreseeable” death to receive euthanasia. 


Coleman praised the UN officials for defending the dignity of persons with disabilities.


“As the statement says, ‘Disability should never be a ground or justification to end someone’s life directly or indirectly,’ and we strongly agree,” she told CNA.


Coleman noted that the statement did not mention that the terminally ill who seek to end their lives “primarily request assisted suicide because of disability-related concerns” such as the loss of autonomy.  


“People with advanced terminal conditions are a subset of all people with disabilities,” said Coleman. “So I really think that the concerns raised by the U.N. Office of Human Rights apply across the board.”


The three UN experts who issued the joint statement are Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; and Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons. 


The UN’s human rights office said that bills extending euthanasia to persons with disabilities “would institutionalize and legally authorize ableism.”


Quinn, De Schutter, and Mahler warned that normalizing euthanasia for persons with disabilities who are not terminally ill would draw upon “ableist assumptions about the inherent ‘quality of life’ or ‘worth’ of the life of a person with a disability.” 


“These assumptions, which are grounded in ableism and associated stereotypes, have been decisively rejected by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” they said. “Disability is not a burden or a deficit of the person. It is a universal aspect of the human condition.”


Canada’s Bill C-7 was introduced in the country’s Parliament following the Quebec Superior Court’s 2019 ruling that the requirement of a “reasonably foreseeable death” to receive euthanasia was a violation of rights under the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 


The two plaintiffs in the case, Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu, were both diagnosed with disabling conditions that are not terminal. Truchon received euthanasia in April, 2020. 


All countries with legal active euthanasia—where a doctor can legally end a patient’s life at their request—have ratified the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or its optional protocol. 


The three experts also said that the elderly or disabled “may feel subtly pressured to end their lives prematurely” on account of “attitudinal barriers as well as the lack of appropriate services and support.” 


Poverty, too, plays a role, as “the proportion of people with disabilities living in poverty is significantly higher” than those without disabilities, they said.


“People with disabilities condemned to live in poverty due to the lack of adequate social protection can decide to end their lives as a gesture of despair,” they said. “Set against the legacy of accumulated disadvantages their ‘architecture of choice’ could hardly be said to be unproblematic.”


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News Briefs

British Columbia hospice to be evicted over euthanasia opposition 

January 15, 2021 CNA Daily News 2

CNA Staff, Jan 15, 2021 / 04:47 pm (CNA).- A hospice in Delta, British Columbia is laying off all staff next month as they will be evicted from their building due to their opposition to euthanasia.

The Delta Hospice is a 10-bed hospice. It is operated by the Delta Hospice Society, an organization which was founded in 1991. The hospice is located a one-minute drive away from a hospital which provides euthanasia.

Last year, the Delta Hospice Society was informed that they would be losing $1.5 million in funding from the Fraser Health Authority, a public health care authority in British Columbia, as well as its permission to operate as a hospice, in February 2021. This was due to their refusal to offer “assisted dying,” the Canadian legal term for euthanasia.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalized federally in Canada in June 2016. Religious hospitals are not forced to provide euthanasia, but no such conscience rights exist for secular institutions like the Delta Hospice Society.

Angelina Ireland, president of the Delta Hospice, told CNA on Thursday that she thinks her organization has “clearly been targeted to make an example of how you will not defy a government directive.”

“If the government tells you to do something, you’d better do it,” she told CNA. “And then if you don’t do it, then they’ll basically just shut you down and destroy the society that you’ve built for the last 30 years.”

“We were only 10 beds. We are hardly high profile. We hardly matter,” said Ireland. “We have always been committed to palliative care.”

The Delta Hospice Society lost a court case when they attempted to block the membership of euthanasia activists in the organization. They are appealing and hoping the Canadian Supreme Court will take up their case.

The hospice’s case regarded its efforts to hold a meeting and vote on proposed changes to its constitution and bylaws that would define its Christian identity and exclude the provision of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in June that the hospice had acted wrongly in its attempts to define its Christian identity and to exclude euthanasia, because it had not been indiscriminately approving new applications for membership during 2020.

The hospice’s actions were challenged by three of its members, Sharon Farrish, Christopher Pettypiece, and James Levin, who are in favor of euthanasia.

And while Delta Hospice is about to lose its physical building, Ireland said that her group’s work in promoting a peaceful natural death will continue.

“We’ve been in society for 30 years and for the last 10 of those, we had a facility,” she told CNA. “So what we will do is we will go back to our roots, and we will continue to do what we did for 20 years. We went directly to the community, directly to people’s homes.”

“Without the building, we don’t stop being a society and we don’t stop advocating and doing the kind of work we’ve always done,” said Ireland.
Ironically, Ireland mused it may be “safer” to do exclusively home visits.

“If people are entering facilities that offer euthanasia, and they can’t get away from it, it may be a safer place, a safe space for them to have support and help in their own home,” she said.

“So we will continue to do that. That has been the purpose of our society from the beginning,” said Ireland, “And we will just soldier on and go back to our roots.”



Defining Dehumanization Up

January 26, 2019 Dr. Mark Latkovic 12

Famously, after the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II, the world spoke the words, “Never Again.” In the years since, however, you have to wonder how seriously we have taken those words. […]