“I think myself and many others are deeply concerned about how Bill C-7 devalues [the] of people with disabilities see disability as intrinsic suffering, as intolerable in nature, ”said Preston, assistant professor of disability studies at King’s University College at Western University in London, Ont. Preston lives with a severe form of muscular dystrophy and uses an electric wheelchair to get around.
He and other advocates argue that expanding medical assistance in dying (MAID) eligibility guidelines without also strengthening other types of health care support will see MAID as a first choice. rather than a last resort.
“I think the way the federal government has moved much faster to provide access to death for people with disabilities than to provide the means to live good, functional, safe and happy lives,” he said. White coat, black art host Dr. Brian Goldman.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed Bill C-7 by a 60-25 vote, with five abstentions. The bill made the first major changes to physician-assisted dying since MAID became legal with Bill C-14 in 2016.
In the new law, Canadians with chronic illnesses and disabilities whose death is not reasonably foreseeable will be allowed to apply for MAID, in accordance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling.
People suffering only from serious and irremediable mental illnesses will have to wait two years to obtain the same right.
In a statement to White coat, black art, Said Justice Minister David Lametti White coat, black art that over 300,000 Canadians have been consulted on Bill C-7, including members of communities with disabilities.
The result, he said, is that “the framework of Bill C-7 will help honor the difficult and personal decisions of some Canadians to end their suffering on their own terms, while providing for significant guarantees to protect vulnerable people ”.
Autonomy and ‘peace of mind’
Andrew Adams, a Dying with Dignity volunteer based in Fraser Valley, British Columbia, believes Bill C-7 “brings people into the modern age” and recognizes the empowerment of people with debilitating illnesses, ” allowing us to decide what to do with our own bodies. ”
He lives with an abdominal migraine, a chronic illness “kind of like having a really bad case of food poisoning combined with a migraine,” he says. Her symptoms can last for months.
Adams has applied for MAID in the past, but failed to qualify. He described feeling “euphoric” at one point in the process when he thought he was eligible – but not because he was planning to use it anytime soon.
“It was actually because I thought my life could be extended and prolonged in the sense that I wouldn’t have to worry about having to end my own life in an unpredictable or violent way,” he said. he declares.
Now that C-7 has expanded some of the requirements for MAID, Adams plans to reapply in the near future.
“I will look to see if I get approved and if I do, I will find great peace of mind. ”
Preston expressed his sympathy for Adams’ situation. Still, he warned that wider access to MAID could result in people accessing it who “I don’t think a lot of people would be particularly supportive of.”
He did, however, recognize his own privilege, describing himself as “a white man from a middle class family growing up in Ontario” who had better access to help and health care that is perhaps unavailable. not be granted to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other people of color) and other marginalized communities.
Questions for healthcare providers as well
As the physician who provided MAID for patients, Dr. Sandy Buchman said he was “struggling” to find the best way to approach the changes in Bill C-7.
The palliative care specialist at North York General Hospital in Toronto and former president of the Canadian Medical Association said at the moment he was comfortable with the administration of MAID as stated in Bill C -14, but not in cases where death is not reasonably foreseeable, as indicated. under C-7.
In his statement, Lametti noted that anyone applying for the marketing authorization “must undergo thorough evaluations by two independent medical evaluators, who must agree that the individual has met all the requirements and makes his or her decision freely and informed. »
This evaluation period lasts 90 days. Buchman expressed concern that it may not be long enough in all cases for health care providers to determine whether other supports can alleviate a patient’s suffering instead of l ‘AMM, or if that same period ends up putting up barriers “for people … who are really suffering and want to access it,” he said.
“In a perfect system, maybe we could. But in our less than perfect system, where we have so many struggles with adequate resources… the reality is that people, I think, can go for MAID because their suffering is not being addressed. . ”
He hopes that the discussions that will emerge from the death of the C-7 will help spark further discussion of other “gaps” in the Canadian health care system, so that anyone considering physician-assisted dying is not doing so because of the risk of death. other options are out of reach.
Preston agrees the conversation is not over.
“This needs to be part of a growing and ongoing conversation to ensure that we try to balance the access needs of those who really need it, while protecting and protecting those who need it. [choosing MAID] due to the lack of social supports, the lack of systemic change, and the insidious nature of ableism right now in our culture. ”
Written by Jonathan Ore with files from the Canadian Press. Produced by Jeff Goodes and Sujata Berry.