People First of Canada Doctor-Assisted Dying Position Statement
People First of Canada (PFC) believes that there needs to be safeguards in place for vulnerable people when it comes to the new doctor-assisted dying legislation. We support the Vulnerable Persons Standard (May 2016). We believe that the safeguards in the standard need to be included in any federal laws about doctor-assisted dying.
Issue and Context
It’s not easy living in the world of intellectual disability. There is a basic struggle to be included in ways that many people outside of this world can’t even understand.
There are many things against us. Even as we make advances in inclusion and human rights, there is always a risk to our ability to live our own lives and make our own decisions. For example:
- People with intellectual disabilities (and mental health disabilities) are institutionalized more than any other group in society and live with the risk of being institutionalized.
- People with intellectual disabilities have often been denied education or have had segregated and limited education.
- People with intellectual disabilities have one of the lowest employment rates of any group in society.
- People with intellectual disabilities are often put under guardianship or trusteeship and denied the right to make their own decisions.
- People with intellectual disabilities have had their reproductive rights taken away from them by sterilization.
- People with intellectual disabilities are one of the groups in society that are often harmed and sometimes killed by their family or caregivers who are supposed to protect them.
It is because of this history and these reasons, especially the last one, that People First of Canada is very concerned with the new doctor-assisted dying laws. We believe that some people with intellectual disabilities may be at risk of being pressured into choosing doctor-assisted dying for reasons not related to their medical condition.
The goal of the Vulnerable Persons Standard is to make sure that people can choose assisted dying as a real choice. This means they must not be pushed into dying by others or because of their current situation. This also means that other options must always be provided. The system must safeguard the inclusion of vulnerable people in our society.
The Vulnerable Persons Standard is based on the core values of autonomy – which means real choice, dignity – which means self-respect and self-worth, and inclusion – which means having options and support to live a good life.
The safeguards in the standard will help to make sure that people who request a doctor’s help to end their lives can do so without putting at risk the lives of vulnerable people who may be abused or forced to make the decision.
People First of Canada recommends that the federal government of Canada includes the safeguards in the Vulnerable Persons Standard in the federal laws around doctor-assisted dying.