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.

Link to the full article

Level-headed assisted suicide debate based on real evidence, not misplaced emotion

By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick - Director of EPC - International and HOPE Ireland.

Dr. Kevin Fitzpatrick

Dr. Kevin Fitzpatrick

Emer O’Kelly writes emotionally in the Irish Sunday Independentabout Marie Fleming. 

Marie was my friend and colleague in Swansea University for several years. At times we ‘colluded’ – the Northern Irish Two against the world – in the nicest and fun way of course.

I had already been disabled for twenty years when we met. My catastrophic change to wheelchair user came in an instant, collateral damage in a war I had no hand in. We did not know Marie was to become a wheelchair user herself, through progressive multiple sclerosis. 

I joined Not Dead Yet UK, a loose coalition of disabled people, at the request of its founder Baroness Jane Campbell, friend, fellow Disability Rights Commissioner, and herself a lifelong disabled activist. I had visited the idea of suicide myself seriously, so I was unsure how I felt about euthanasia/assisted suicide. I began researching. When I uncovered for myself what exactly is going on where the act of taking another’s life is legal, I was horrified.

I have since appeared in front of many highly emotionally-charged audiences, extremely hostile to my opposition to legalisation. I am not usually afforded the courtesy of time to explain my position, constantly shouted down by angry people, including supposedly impartial journalists. 

What most audiences, and what Emer O’Kelly fails to understand is that opposition to legalising euthanasia/assisted suicide is not about some cruel desire to stand in Tom or Marie’s way. 

Disabled people reflect the views of the people around them, just as much as a studio audience, for example. So it is understandable that some disabled people think they should be allowed to die by euthanasia or to have someone else assist them to commit suicide. I can respect this and understand their fears of a painful death or of not wishing to be a burden on others. But I can still oppose such legislation for reasons of its terrible consequences. 

Link to the full article

British leader with disabilities speaks out against assisted suicide - "I am convinced that a change in the law would put our lives at risk."

Baroness Jane Campbell

Baroness Jane Campbell

These are the two speeches by Baroness Jane Campbell in the British House of Lords on January 16, 2015 opposing the assisted suicide bill.

Baroness Campbell was Commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) from 2006–2008, Chair of the Disability Committee which lead on the EHRC Disability Programme, former Chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and Commissioner of the Disability Rights Commission until October 2006.

Cambell has been featured in several excellent articles on assisted suicide including: ● Assisted Suicide could lure me to the grave, ● Why I oppose assisted suicide and ● Assisted suicide bill in Britain in fatally flawed.

Baroness Campbell's first speech in the House of Lords - January 16, 2015. 
My Lords, I thank the Minister. I am sorry I have not got a loud voice. I may be a little slow. This is not because I want to hold up the Bill, I just have things to say.

We have been told time and again that disabled people with life-limiting conditions—and I use that term advisedly because we do not recognize the terms “terminal illness” and “months” or “weeks to live”; ... have nothing to fear from the Bill. We are told that it is necessary only to help a few desperate individuals to end their lives when they have weeks or months to live, and that, if enacted, it will not touch anyone who does not want it. 

I do not believe that and, it seems, neither do the authors of the Bill. Why else would they elect to name it the Assisted Dying Bill instead of the assisted suicide Bill? If it is truly concerned only with personal autonomy and choice, surely that should be celebrated and clear.

Link to the full article

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: 2014 year in review.

Euthanasia - We can live without

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In 2014 there were many great articles opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Here are some of the key articles published from different perspectives in 2014.

People with disabilities oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.
●  January, Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick, a spokesperson for Not Dead Yet UK and the new Director of EPC International wrote an article - Legalizing euthanasia threatens people with disabilities

●  In February, Stephen Drake, the researcher for Not Dead Yet explained how the New Hampshire assisted suicide bill definition of "Terminal Condition" was broad enough to include anyone with a chronic condition.

●  In April, Jim Derksen, a founder of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities wrote an about euthanasia and eugenics - Not Dead Yet.

●  In June, John Kelly, from Second Thoughts wrote - Assisted Suicide: Just Too Dangerous.

●  In July, Baroness Jane Campbell from the UK wrote - Assisted Suicide could lure me to the grave.

●  In October Catherine Frazee wrote - Assisted suicide debate masks disability prejudice.

●  In November, Marilyn Golden from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund wrote -Assisted Suicide is Bad Medicine.

Depression, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

Link to the full article.