Canada’s Death for the Disabled is a Wake-up Call for the U.S.

A new bill shows the right-to-die movement is accelerating.

It’s not often one can say the world’s eyes should be riveted on Canada. But on February 26 our sensible neighbor is poised will dramatically expand medical suicide when it enacts a law allowing people with disabilities to kill themselves with the help of a doctor or nurse practitioner. Canada will join the ranks of Belgium and the Netherlands as a leader in death on demand.

Canada’s Parliament, because of a court decision, is now debating a law to broaden medical-aid-in dying rights beyond the terminally ill. The proposed law, called Bill C-7, will also permit euthanasia; that means a lethal injection to unconscious patients who agree ahead of time. Parliament is even considering circling back in 18 months to consider whether mental illness alone is sufficient cause for assisted suicide.

While the expansion of such laws has been well known in Europe, this new example North America hits closer to home as similar advocacy groups promote assisted suicide in the United States.

Bill C-7 bears watching by Americans because laws permitting physician-assisted suicide, or PAS are already on the books. While our laws are limited to patients with a terminal illness, that’s how Canada started out too, and not very long ago. PAS supporters tend to scoff at the “slippery slope” argument. Trends here as well as Canada show that the right-to-die movement is accelerating in North America.

Early on, U.S. advocates struggled through referenda and lawsuits, gaining three PAS laws in the years between 1994 to 2008. Recently the movement’s had rapid success, gaining laws in six jurisdictions over a three-year period. Death with Dignity, an Oregon nonprofit based in Oregon with many other state chapters that promote such laws, was part of the efforts that helped to shape the legislation. A group with a similar purpose, Dying with Dignity, is now a presence in Canada.

Doctors and disability rights activists have raised a hue and cry against the new law. Psychiatrist John Maher, for example, testified before Canadian Parliament, that the law hasn’t been enacted yet but is already impacting his practice. Aware that a medical suicide law is coming, his patients say: “Why try to recover?”

The U.N. is also concerned and rattled by the proposed law. Gerard Quinn, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, testified before the Canadian senate of his concern that Bill C-7 will send a message to society that disabled life is unworthy and will result in pressure on disabled people to choose death rather than burden the healthcare system.

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