Liberty or equality? Unrestricted access to assisted suicide endangers vulnerable people

Liberty or equality? Unrestricted access to assisted suicide endangers vulnerable people

Quebec Superior Court ruling doesn’t make us equal, it leaves us more vulnerable than ever, Ruth Enns writes

By granting two people with disabilities a medically hastened death and insisting on legal changes, a Quebec Superior Court ruling reframes Bill C-14 safeguards as obstacles to free choice.

Now a tiny minority of the people those safeguards were supposed to protect are being used to rationalize changing the law.

Jean Truchon, who has cerebral palsy, and Nicole Gladu, who has post-polio syndrome, fought for and won the legal right to medically assisted deaths before the Quebec Superior Court this year.

The judge ruled that disability alone, not imminent death, is reason enough to grant a medically hastened death — euphemistically called medical assistance in dying (MAID). She gave governments six months to amend the law that requires imminent death as a factor in granting medically assisted deaths.

Such a change leaves everyone more vulnerable than ever, pressured to follow suit.

The central issue has long been presented as a Hobson’s choice: for or against free choice. However, the real issue is unrestricted individual choice versus equality.

The assumption in cases like these is that unlimited access to a medically hastened death guarantees equality for all.

Even many members of minority groups believe free choice brings the equality they strive for, but it doesn’t.

If people don’t start out equal, how does removing safeguards equalize them?

People who believe that removing safeguards equalizes everyone are blind to power imbalances: between bosses and employees; teachers and students; caregivers and care recipients.

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