Judgement day in SCC Canada decision revisited – disability discrimination to death

By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE, is the director of Hope Ireland.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick

February 6, 2015 was a disastrous day for Canadians with disabilities - not just for them - but for all disabled people everywhere, and all people made vulnerable by the fact that they are facing end-of-life decisions. 

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) judgement writes euthanasia into law on the grounds of disability alone. That is archetypal disability discrimination – in this case, to death. 

Disabled people must resist what is the biggest threat we have seen to our lives to date, written into a legal judgement. So must everyone else: this is about the kind of society we all want to live in.

Within the SCC judgment, there are deeply flawed assumptions about human life and living in general, and specifically about what it means to live with a disability. There are significant factual errors also.

Disabled people opposing the legalisation of euthanasia/assisted suicide have never doubted that some disabled people will reach a view that ‘they cannot go on like this’. But despair is not confined to those disabled people, or people who are gravely ill, or people who feel they have ‘lost everything’.

Why then single out disabled people as a ‘special group’ amongst all those who will consider taking their own lives at some point? Disabled people are not a ‘homogenous group’ – we reflect the whole cross-section of society (which is why it is wrong to speak of ‘the disabled’). So some disabled people will absorb and reflect the thinking of their time, of their communities, and simply accept that this very public, and very poor debate conducted in the media, must have some force. Others will reflect more seriously.

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