By Mary Manley | Samizdat | May 2, 2022
Canada, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, is finding a new way to cut costs on disabled people by… euthanizing them?
In 2015 the case of Carter v Canada (Attorney General) prompted the Supreme Court to strike down a previous provision in the Criminal Code, thereby allowing Canadian adults the option of assisted suicide, or Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD).
That ruling then spiraled into a law known as Bill C-7, an all-encompassing euthanasia law passed in 2021 which threw out the requirement that those seeking assisted suicide need to have a terminal illness whose death was reasonably foreseeable.
Although Bill C-7 states that “Parliament affirms the inherent and equal value of every person’s life and the importance of taking a human rights-based approach to disability inclusion”, disability justice organizations and even the UN’s watchdog on disability opposed the new bill based on their belief that it would worsen discriminatory practices within the healthcare system.
More than 300 disability groups in Canada opposed Bill C-7, citing that the removal of the “reasonably foreseeable natural death” requirement would target disabled persons. Instead of being offered medical assistance or support, the Canadian government now has the option of doing away with any ill person that sucks up taxpayer money.
“Rather than funding and making life a possible and viable choice for many people, we’re entertaining this option of asking them if they would like to die, and it’s very scary,” said Spring Hawes, a former Invermere city councilor and the co-founder of Dignity Denied, in 2020.
“There is the danger that it might be considered a favor to offer someone dying when really that person just needs to have access to better care, better supports or the things they need to live well,” added Hawes who has a spinal cord injury and uses a wheelchair.
And what some could argue sounds like fear-mongering by a group of people who- in their very right have a legitimate reason to be afraid- is bolstered by horrifying stories told by disabled people which demonstrate abuse and neglect at the hands of their government.
In April of this year a 51 year-old Ontario woman with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) chose MAiD after two years of searching and failing to secure a bid for affordable housing free of cigarette smoke and chemical cleaners. “The government sees me as expendable trash, a complainer, useless and a pain in the a**,” she said in a video filmed on February 14, eight days before her assisted suicide.
One woman requested MAiD because she “simply [couldn’t] afford to keep on living”, after food banks became an inaccessible option. Another woman from Vancouver said she intended to use MAiD after COVID-19 left her with increased expenses and unmanageable pain. And in 2021, Chris Gladders chose to end his life via MAiD after experiencing “deplorable” living conditions at the retirement home called Greycliff Manor in Niagara Falls. When his family arrived to say goodbye to them they were horrified to find Chris in a room covered in urine and fecal matter.
“None of the floors were cleaned up or anything, you could see clearly where they changed his catheter bag,” said Shawn Gladders, Chris’s brother in January of 2021.
“There was urine on the floor, there were spots where there was feces on the floor… spots where your feet were just sticking. Like, if you stood at his bedside and when you went to walk away, your foot was literally stuck. It was very, very disturbing, for sure.”
Shawn said that on other occasions when he had visited his brother, Chris was taken outside of the room by a staff member, “I kick myself today, because I wish I would have walked in there before… I never would have left him there.” Shawn adds that Chris’ time at Greycliff Manor most likely contributed to his decision to end his own life.
In 2020, the Canadian government agreed to give a measly one-time payment of $600 to disabled persons who qualified, in response to the devastating economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. They estimated that just 1.67 million disabled persons would receive that assistance, compared to the 6 million disabled persons who live in Canada.
One disabled Canadian, who chose to remain anonymous, said that after asking her doctor to fill out a form for the credit he rejected her, saying, “You’re not disabled enough… You have to be sitting in the corner drooling to be able to get this.”
The fact is: the Canadian government has no interest in spending money on their disabled people. Instead, they see MAiD as a convenient option to cut costs on healthcare for persons with chronic conditions and other disabilities. Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer even published an exciting report on the savings assisted suicide would garner their taxpayers: MAiD before Bill C-7 generated a total saving of $86.9 million per year, and Bill C-7, the government was pleased to announced, would save an additional $62 million a year.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, Canada’s government appears to be fixed on including those with mental illnesses (such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and PTSD) to become eligible for assisted suicide, by as soon as next year. If that decision were to go through, Canada would become one of few nations allowing the use of MAiD in cases of mental illnesses.