For Immediate Release

Monday March 18, 2013

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) will join the Attorneys General of British Columbia and Canada before the BC Court of Appeal on March 18 for a hearing in Carter v. Attorney General.  The appeal is from a ruling issued on June 15, 2012 in which Justice Lynn Smith declared that Canada’s assisted suicide prohibition violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

CCD and CACL, who represent persons with disabilities throughout Canada, will argue that the ban should remain in place, because assisted suicide reinforces disability discrimination and puts vulnerable persons at risk.

‟Allowing assisted suicide and euthanasia creates a double standard,” said Dean Richert, Chair of CCD’s Ending of Life Ethics Committee, who noted that virtually all people who have lost their lives from assisted suicide have a disability.  ‟When non-disabled people say they want to kill themselves, society mobilizes to prevent their suicides, in keeping with Canadian values of interdependence and mutual support.  However when ill and disabled people ask to die, the helping hand only pushes them toward death” said Richert.

Richert notes that under British Columbia law, people can be involuntarily committed for psychiatric care if they pose a danger to themselves.  He said true equality would mean applying these same suicide prevention policies to everyone.

Laurie Larson, President of CACL and a mother of two sons with significant disabilities said this issue will affect ‟the growing number of Canadians who are born with, or acquire significant disabilities through injury, illness or aging.” Larson said the growing support for assisted suicide comes from a ‟deepening cultural shift, the idea that life is worse than death for people with certain experiences of disabilities.”

In her nearly 400-page decision, Justice Smith found no danger to people with disabilities where euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently legal, saying it was unnecessary to protect ‟hypothetical patients from hypothetical harm.”  However a recent appeals court decision in Ireland came to the opposite conclusion.

‟The wider impact on people with intellectual disabilities is undeniable,” said Larson. ‟The message to this group of Canadians is that their life, their presence in Canadian society, does not have equal value.  It is in precisely this context that the hugely disproportionate rates of violence against people with disabilities are bred.”

Amy Hasbrouck, working with CCD to create Not Dead Yet Canada, described the potential flaws in so-called safeguards:  ‟Voluntary requests can be influenced by economic and social factors, or direct pressure; Competency evaluations don’t account for diagnosing depression and other treatable conditions that can cause suicidal feelings; ‛Informed’ consent does not require that necessary services and supports be in place to alleviate the problems that give rise to the suicide request; after-the-fact measures don’t prevent errors from causing unnecessary deaths; the list goes on and on,” said Hasbrouck.

Jim Derksen, a member of CCD’s Ethics Committee, emphasized that people already have the legal right to control their deaths by refusing medical treatment, food and water.  He wonders if assisted suicide is worth risking the lives of so many, so that a few people can have greater precision in dictating the time and manner of their deaths.


For More Information Contact:

Dean Richert, Chair of CCD Ending of Life Ethics Committee, 204-989-2760 (work)

Laurie Larson President of CACL, 306-948-7341 (cel)

Amy Hasbrouck, Not Dead Yet Canada (a project of CCD), 450-921-3057 (cel)

Jim Derksen, Member of CCD Ending of Life Ethics Committee, 204-786-7937

Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator, 204-947-0303 (wk) 204-981-6179 (cel)

Michael Bach, CACL Executive Vice President, 416-661-9611 (wk) 416-209-7942 (cel)