The evidence piling up before a special joint committee on physician-assisted dying includes a disability rights advocate calling Canadian senators and MPs racists and ableists.
“How will you make amends for the lives that have been lost so far due to systemic coercion due to your decision to extend MAID specifically to the disability community?” Sarah Jama, executive director of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, called on senators and MPs to conduct a mandated review of MAID legislation and explore options for expanding assisted suicide to mature minors, mentally ill and advance directives for people who fear living with dementia. (Submission can be made to the committee until May 30).
Jama went further, saying allowing people to order assisted death before severe dementia would target black people.
“You spend a lot of time talking about dementia, but dementia disproportionately affects black and racialized people who are caregivers, who stay home and support families, and you haven’t heard of black people living in this situation,” Jama said. among politicians. “Black people are less likely to send family members to long-term care facilities due to the volatility of those situations, abuse and racism there as well. …will black people be, you know, pressured into accessing MAID over other treatments that should be available? I think so.”
In other submissions, the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada (CAHC) also pleaded with the committee for the right to continue to operate its facilities according to a Catholic philosophy, while physicians who practice MAID insist that they do not pose a threat to vulnerable patients with inadequate mental health. suboptimal supports and palliative care.
In a brief, CASC, representing 129 Catholic health care providers from hospitals and nursing homes to home nursing agencies, called MAID a poor substitute for an equitable health care system.
“Approaches such as MAID fail to recognize the importance of addressing societal inequality and injustice and, in our view, contribute to a position that treats vulnerable people as a burden on society, which results in an increased threat to their very existence,” the alliance wrote. in its submission, signed by Board Chair Sara Fowler, President and CEO John Ruetz and Ethics Counselor Hazel Markwell. “Any broadening of eligibility criteria for MAID will further exacerbate existing inequalities.”
CHAC also called on the committee to “affirm the protection of the conscience rights of healthcare professionals” and to “promote the religious mission and purpose of Catholic-identity healthcare organizations.”
The president of the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers dismissed claims that inadequate palliative care, an incomplete and stressed mental health system or socioeconomic barriers drive people to assisted suicide.
“While it is true that not all Canadians have equal access to quality palliative care and more needs to be done to improve this, national data suggests that 83% of all who received MAID in Canada in 2020 were receiving palliative care, and of those who were not, 88% had access to palliative care if they wanted it,” Dr. Stephanie Green wrote in her brief.
Green also insisted that the MAID system does not kill the poor, marginalized and excluded.
“People who proceed with MAID are at least anecdotally disproportionately advantaged in relation to socioeconomic vulnerability,” she wrote.
The Care Not Kill campaign aimed to get politicians to the suicide part of assisted suicide.
“While MAID advocates like to think of it as distinct from other forms of suicide, MAID actually normalizes suicide as a solution to suffering,” wrote Anna Nienhuis of the Association for Reformed Political Action, who leads the campaign, in a memoir.
Nienhuis argues that the well-documented social contagion effect of suicide explains to some extent the steadily increasing number of MAID deaths in Canada.
“Suicide prevention must remain a lifelong priority for all Canadians,” Nienhaus wrote. “Everything else requires value judgments about the value of other people’s lives – judgments that no human being should make.”
On behalf of MAID physicians, Green pushed back against any link between MAID and assisted suicide.
“Medical assistance in dying involves a legal framework, a rigorous process, the involvement of multiple health practitioners and the possibility of involving several relatives…. They are simply not the same.