Statement from Bill Adair

Statement provided 24 November 2020 ahead of Report 4 submitted to the House of Commons on 25 November 2020. Coverage of this statement and others can be seen here.

With the proposed changes to MAiD in Bill C-7, SCI Canada believes that we will lose many bright and creative people. The proposed safeguards do not allow the time and support required for people with spinal cord injuries to make an informed and uncoerced decision about medical assistance in dying.

Our first concern is that people with a new injury will not have an opportunity to maximize their potential recovery and receive enough information to reasonably contemplate their future potential before being allowed to consent to MAID. 

MAID requires safeguards to guarantee that each person is supported to make an informed, uncoerced decision about medical assistance in dying. This requirement is especially true of vulnerable people working on accepting life with a spinal cord injury. For a person to adapt, adjust and ultimately thrive, they need the very thing the legislation will take away – time. They need time to mourn. They need time to absorb new information and to organize and receive support. This time enables people to see beyond the initial pain, loss, hopelessness and despair as they contemplate their future life.

Through our 75 years of helping people rebuild happy, satisfying lives, we know it can take several years for a person to adjust, adapt and thrive. We also know that a wide array of intrinsic and extrinsic factors influence these timelines. 

90 Days is not nearly enough time for this process to take place.

Our second concern is that pain, discomfort, avoidable health complications and suffering can be caused by a lack of access to supports and services when a person returns to life in the community. Living alone, financially strapped and with no support could drive any one of us to choose medical assistance in dying. There are significant disparities in service availability and timely access to services across provinces and territories that contribute to a person losing hope for a satisfying life. This inequity is not in keeping with the principles of the Accessible Canada Act. The Act commits Canada to remove barriers that prevent full access and inclusion for people with disabilities.

We call on the Minister of Health to convene discussions with provincial and territorial governments and people with disabilities. Together, we can work towards equal access to resources and services in all communities across Canada.

Bill Adair is the Executive Director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada – a Federation of organizations that assist people with spinal cord injuries to achieve independence, self-reliance and full community participation. He is on the Board of Directors of Accessibility Standards Canada and a member of Minister Qualtrough’s Disability Advisory Group. He received the Meritorious Service Medal from the Gov. Gen. of Canada in 2016 for his efforts to promote equal opportunity for people with disabilities in Canada.

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