Since 2016, Canada has legalized both assisted suicide and euthanasia for “people whose serious illness, disease or disability is advanced and irreversibly deteriorating, and whose physical or mental suffering cannot be relieved in a way that patients consider acceptable. (…) whose Death would be reasonably foreseeable”.
The law will be amended next year to include people who are not terminally ill – greatly expanding the number of people who can access assisted suicide or euthanasia services.
In 2021, 10,000 people used these services, 30% more than the previous year, and deaths by assisted suicide or euthanasia accounted for 3% of the total in 2021.
For some time, associations committed to the protection of human rights have raised concerns about the existing law and have undertaken public awareness campaigns for radical revision of the existing law. Above all it emphasizes how doctors and social workers are at risk when faced with options such as assisted suicide or euthanasia as a “form of treatment” for their living conditions.
Recently, euthanasia cases of people with disabilities have prompted human rights organizations and activists to intensify their campaign for legislation that places clear and serious limits on access to assisted suicide or euthanasia.
“Allowing euthanasia only on the basis of disability is a violation of human rights. The implication of Canadian law is that life with a disability is automatically worth less than living and, in some cases, death is preferable” (D. Degener).
Also, people with disabilities in Canada are coming to choose euthanasia for purely economic reasons, that is, they cannot cover the costs of the care and assistance they need – care and assistance that is not adequately supported by the medical and social system. “Euthanasia cannot be a default condition for Canada’s failure to respect its human rights obligations” – M.-C. Landry, Chair of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
From next year, a further amendment to the existing law will allow euthanasia or assisted suicide only for reasons such as mental illness and suffering. At the same time, the possibility of extending euthanasia to “mature” minors is also being evaluated.
In the face of these extensions and legislation that discriminates against persons with disabilities, the government must consider the existential condition of those who have been led to believe that euthanasia is the best social and legal solution to their living conditions, listening to the political forces and the voice of the Human Rights Commission.
“Social and economic rights must be incorporated into Canadian law to provide people with adequate housing, medical care and the necessary support they need. At a time when we recognize the right to die with dignity, we must do more to ensure the right to live with dignity” (MC Landry).
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