What Is Dignity Denied?
Dignity Denied is a group founded by two disabled women in response to the introduction of Bill C7. Many others soon joined. We are concerned that the Canadian government is streamlining a process for euthanasia in an ableist, racist, sexist country that forces disabled people into poverty and denies us the support necessary to live a dignified life. We are especially concerned this is happening during a pandemic in which disabled people have largely been excluded from the support while potentially being denied life-saving healthcare under ableist triage protocols.
Is your group opposed to assisted suicide?
The group Dignity Denied takes no position on the issue of assisted suicide in general but rather is focused on the policies the Canadian government has or has not put in place governing its use.
We are opposed to the extension of assisted suicide to disabled people who are not facing “reasonably foreseeable” deaths and the removal of important safeguards under Bill C7.
We are greatly concerned with the lack of independent monitoring, reporting and accountability in place around MAiD. This will become a much bigger concern as access to assisted suicide is extended to almost anyone who is disabled.
We argue there is only really the illusion of choice when the state continues to withhold and deny funding and supports necessary for a disabled person to exist beyond a state of survival. Bill C-7 has not been subject to an analysis of the ways that institutions situated within the realms of income supports, employment, education, housing, health care, and other social services systems hold power over us in a way where MAID is no longer a matter of choice.
As disabled people we are aware of the emotional and psychological toll that living in a culture where “better dead than disabled” is codified and communicated to us in a myriad of ways and on daily basis, often even by our own family members. We are gravely concerned about the impact the devaluing and dehumanizing of disabled people has on decisions around ending one’s life.
Disabled people are the only group of people for whom a Hollywood happy ending involves us killing ourselves.
We also believe Bill C7 will have a dangerous impact by reinforcing this belief in individuals and society as a whole, essentially setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy – by specifically deciding the suffering of disabled people and disabled people only, who are not dying, is one that the state should alleviate with death, more people will believe that disability is worse than death and seek death.
Does your group have any religious affiliations?
What is Bill C7?
Bill C7 amends the section of the Criminal Code of Canada that governs assisted suicide.
Bill C7 allows healthcare professionals to be involved in causing the deaths of disabled people whose deaths are not “reasonably foreseeable.”
The bill also removes important safeguards that were put in place with the original MAiD (medical assistance in dying) legislation.
Why do we need safeguards? Isn’t having a physician involved a sufficient safeguard?
It is normal and necessary to include safeguards such as independent oversight, reporting and monitoring of how a policy that impacts public health and safety, let alone giving the right of another human(s) to cause the death of another, is applied.
For example, we have multiple safeguards in place about the preparation and handling of food and operation of a restaurant. No one thinks that a restaurant goes into business with the intention of harming its customers but it can and does happen and we as a society have acknowledged it is a government responsibility to provide guidance and oversight to protect the public.
I’ve heard that they have eliminated the 10 day waiting period after applying for assisted suicide in order to relieve suffering.
There was no need to remove this waiting period as the law already allowed for that period to be waived if two physicians found that not doing so would cause undue suffering to the terminally ill person who had applied for MAiD.
I’ve heard there is a consensus on Bill C7?
There is no consensus on Bill C7. The Liberal Party enthusiastically supports it as does the NDP. Both of these parties refused to release their members to vote freely. The Conservative Party released their members. The Liberals and NDP also rejected attempts to amend the bill.
But is there a consensus among physicians?
No there is no consensus among physicians. In fact, over a 1,000 physicians signed a statement raising their serious concerns about Bill C7. You can read more here.
But don’t all legal experts agree it’s necessary?
No. Again there is no consensus among legal experts. In fact some highly respected in the field of health law are raising the alarm. You can read more about their concerns here.
“…Bill C-7 would result in more persons with disabilities receiving MAID not because they are near the end of life and want to die with as little pain and as much dignity as possible, but because the social inequality and deprivation they experience is so dehumanizing that they no longer wish to live in those social conditions. Such a result would be a devaluing of the lives of persons with disabilities.” Read More…
But don’t some disabled people who do not have terminal conditions want assisted suicide because they are disabled?
We’re going to quote Nicolas Rouleau who is a constitutional and appellate lawyer:
“…disability-rights organizations are essentially unanimous in their opposition to Bill C-7. Yes, some individuals with disabilities suffer; some would request access to MAiD if offered the opportunity. But so would many other individuals in marginalized groups. This doesn’t mean the government should target these groups as recipients of MAiD instead of addressing the underlying structural factors causing their suffering. On the whole, the empirical evidence confirms that if provided appropriate support, the lives of persons with disabilities are as rich and happy as those of any other individuals.”
I’ve heard it is mainly white and financially privileged people who have taken advantage of assisted suicide in other places such as the US?
This is true. We don’t however have an accurate picture of the over 13,000 people who have been euthanized in Canada since 2016. The absence of disaggregated data is one of the many concerning things about how assisted suicide is being managed in Canada. There is not a lot of evidence being collected and studied within this supposedly evidence-based policy.
Regardless though of who is currently applying there is a long history of policy being developed that centres and prioritizes the needs of a non-oppressed demographics’ wishes and that, when enacted, leads to harmful consequences to those who are oppressed and marginalized.
Wasn’t Bill C7 the result of a court ruling that demanded these changes?
Many believe Bill C7 is more about electoral politics and campaigning than it is about constitutional law or healthcare. A Quebec court ruled that the reasonable foreseeable death requirement for MAiD is unconstitutional. The Federal Government had the option to appeal this to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Liberal Party could have waited until after the 2019 election, as would be customary for a government in such situations. Instead, the Liberal Party announced that it would not appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada despite some legal experts arguing that such an appeal would be justified because the judge had made errors in law. Some have suggested that the choice to amend the criminal code rather than appeal the decision was motivated by a desire of the Liberal Party to win seats in Quebec.
So if there is no urgency and there is no consensus, why was it rushed through Parliament?
That’s a good question and one we urge you to ask your Member of Parliament.
What are the worst things about Bill C7?
In no particular order:
- It is discriminatory against disabled people: “No other Canadian group, no matter the suffering of its individuals, is considered expendable and offered MAiD by the government because of its personal characteristics.” (Link)
- It removes important safeguards.
- It exists in a racist, ableist, classist, sexist society and these and other axis of oppression are reflected in the country’s institutions structurally as well as in the form of individual biases of those who work in them.
- The country lacks the necessary infrastructure, services and support to argue it provides a real choice for disabled people to live with dignity.
But aren’t you forcing people to live?
Demanding the state pay for and provide death on demand is not recognized as a human right.
In contrast, the demand that the state make it possible for disabled people to live is well understood to be within the scope of human rights. And yet our country fails to uphold these.
There is no state force involved in not participating in the death of its citizens.
There is potential coercive force involved if the state participates in the death of its citizens especially if the state consistently fails to provide the means for them to acquire what is necessary to live.
Aren’t you being paternalistic?
Power dynamics in physician-patient relationships are well established. This is why, for example, physicians are not permitted to date their patients. Physicians control access to care, medications, support, and in some cases even housing and income. A physician’s advice is not a Dear Abby column in the paper. They possess unique expertise and authority. People who are disabled, particularly those of us with chronic illnesses, rely on physician’s advice to guide us in a myriad of life choices that a non-disabled person would not.
Those pushing for Bill C7 say they are not opposed to more supports for disabled people.
It would be shocking if they said otherwise. Few people would admit to telling disabled people that we should not have the supports we need. Regardless of what people would like to be true, those supports don’t exist, have never existed, and there are no bills promising to fund them or make them available. We want to see enthusiastic support for more supports for disabled people.
Imagine running high speed trains continuously along a school route. The lack of opposition is like saying you are not opposed to children and parents not being hit by a train, when what the children and parents actually want is fewer trains, slower speeds, and signals at railway crossings. Your lack of opposition to a train hitting them is noted.