Assisted suicide became legal in Canada one year ago, and last week yet another disturbing story about the law’s chilling consequences turned up. Sheila Elson claims a Labrador-Grenfell Health doctor suggested physician-assisted suicide for her disabled daughter:
“’His words were ‘assisted suicide death was legal in Canada,’ she told CBC. ‘I was shocked, and said, “Well, I’m not really interested,” and he told me I was being selfish.’
According to Elson, [her daughter] was within earshot when the doctor made the comment — which she said was quite traumatic for [her] to hear.”
This wasn’t the first time Sheila and her daughter Candice experienced mistreatment. Candice—who suffers from spina bifida, cerebral palsy and seizure disorder, but is capable of verbally communicating and even painting—had been previously disparaged as a “frequent flyer” by a nurse at Labrador-Grenfell while seeking treatment.
However, legalized assisted suicide takes discrimination against the disabled in healthcare, which unfortunately is already rampant, to the next level.
By stating that those with limited autonomy or chronic health conditions are living “undignified” lives, these laws implicitly reinforce the dangerous idea that the disabled are somehow less valuable than the rest of us. In fact, such thinking can lead people to believe that the disabled—or, for that matter, the elderly or sick—have a duty to die, rather than “waste” precious medical attention and resources. As the Labrador-Grenfell case illustrates, those who insist on receiving real care are tarred as “selfish.”
Canada once again serves as an example of the disturbing reality of physician-assisted suicide, which expands the choice of the rich and the powerful, while limiting options and access to care for everyone else.