Action Life Ottawa is an educational pro-life group with approximately 4,000 supporters in Ottawa and the surrounding region. We have worked to foster respect for human life from conception to natural death for more than 50 years. Our organization believes that life affirming solutions are the natural and dignity enhancing response to life’s difficulties. The Special Joint Committee has been asked to study a number of questions pertaining to euthanasia and assisted suicide now legally known in Canada as medical assistance in dying.  We wish to express our concern with an ever increasing expansion of access to euthanasia in conjunction with an alarmingly broad interpretation of eligibility under the law.

Media reports have highlighted a number of troubling cases where patients have been euthanized because their medical, financial and social needs where not met. In other cases, families have maintained that their relative did not meet legal requirements for euthanasia. Consider:

A 51 year old woman with chemical sensitivities was approved for and died by euthanasia in Ontario because she could not find suitable living accommodation. She said that during Covid restrictions, her apartment felt like a dungeon, with cigarette and marijuana smoke and disinfectant used in the hallways aggravating her medical condition. “The government sees me as expendable trash, a complainer, useless and a pain in the a**,” ‘Sophia’ said in a video filmed on Feb. 14, eight days before her death, and shared with CTV News by one of her friends.”

Roger Foley, 45 years of age, lives with spinocerebellar ataxia. Testifying  before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in November 2020, he said:

“I have been coerced into assisted death by abuse, neglect, lack of care and threats. For example, at a time when I was advocating for assistance to live and for self-directed home care, the hospital ethicist and nurses were trying to coerce me into an assisted death by threatening to charge me $1,800 per day or force-discharge me without the care I needed to live. I felt pressured by these staff raising assisted dying rather than relieving my suffering with dignified and compassionate care.”

Alan Nichols a 61 year old man with a history of depression was euthanized following admittance to Chilliwack General Hospital for a psychiatric episode in 2019. His family greatly distressed had tried in vain to stop his euthanasia.  “They killed our brother”, Alan’s brother Wayne told National Post last month.”

Donna Duncan, a former psychiatric nurse, was injured in a car crash. Her daughters say that the effects of the concussion she sustained led to a deterioration of her mental health worsened by Covid restrictions as treatments were unavailable for months. They asked the police to investigate the circumstances surrounding their mother’s euthanasia.  They state on their petition page: “While we have been advocates of death by Medical Assistance in situations where there is a terminal diagnosis or death is imminent, we had no idea that Canada’s laws leave considerable room for interpretation by activist doctors.” 

According to Avis Favaro at CTV News, another Ontario woman ‘Denise’ (not her real name) with environmental and chemical sensitivities has been approved for euthanasia. Denise, 31 years of age, uses a wheelchair due to an injury suffered six years ago. Denise is seeking euthanasia because her basic needs and medical needs are not being satisfied:

“She desperately wants to move to an apartment that’s wheelchair accessible and has cleaner air. But her only income is from Ontario’s Disability Support Program (ODSP). She receives a total of $1,169 a month plus $50 for a special diet. “I’ve applied for MAID essentially…because of abject poverty,” she said.’

The physicians who assessed Denise for euthanasia did not contact Dr. Bray, Denise’s physician. Avis Favaro reports that Dr. Bray commented: “Society is failing these patients,”

“My hope is that we can just put a stop to this very easy out that MAID is providing and start acknowledging that these people need to be helped,”

Canadians face waiting lists for health care, including access to psychiatric care. Inadequate support and services for persons with disabilities will cause suffering as evidenced by these stories.  Providing euthanasia should not be our response.

Dr. Leonie Herx, a palliative care specialist testified before the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying saying: “With almost six years of lived experience now, we have seen significant deleterious effects of the impact of MAiD implementation on palliative care, including diminished resources and increasing distress experienced by palliative care clinicians.”

Brian Bird, an assistant professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia wrote in an opinion piece: “At times, euthanasia has even undermined access to palliative care. In British Columbia, a private hospice — a facility dedicated to caring for individuals nearing death — was shuttered last year after it conscientiously refused to offer euthanasia. Provincial authorities forced the hospice to close even after it proposed to operate without public funds, though it was reopened under direct public control.”

The Supreme Court ruled in its 2015 decision that euthanasia should be available for competent persons 18 and older whose natural death was reasonably foreseeable. From Bill C-14 in 2016, Parliament has progressed to Bill C-7 which allows euthanasia for persons with disabilities and persons whose sole medical condition is mental illness become eligible for euthanasia in 2023.

Any further expansion of euthanasia puts more vulnerable Canadians at risk. There is serious potential for abuse with advance directives, especially for persons with dementia. Every person should retain the right to change their mind and refuse euthanasia regardless of cognitive ability.

As for mature minors, we oppose any extension of euthanasia to this age group. Children are particularly vulnerable and need protection from harm.

Our organization has always advanced that the best safeguard to protect vulnerable individuals from euthanasia is prohibition. Suicide affirmation and suicide prevention cannot exist.  It is our hope that life affirming care will be the road chosen rather than continued expansion of euthanasia.