Proposed expansion of assisted suicide law fails to provide the dignity of good care

Proposed expansion of assisted suicide law fails to provide the dignity of good care

We are doctors who witness the struggles that confront our patients and their loved ones every day. Those living on the margins and with disabilities face significant barriers to care though systemic discrimination (ableism) that can make it harder to live a healthy, fulfilling life in community.

As doctors we should be instilling hope, supporting resilience and using our expertise to find creative solutions to address health and well-being. Instead, we would be required to suggest assisted suicide as an option if this bill becomes law.

Spring Hawes, a woman who has had a spinal cord injury for 15 years, said: “As disabled people, we are conditioned to view ourselves as burdensome. We are taught to apologize for our existence, and to be grateful for the tolerance of those around us. We are often shown that our lives are worth less than non-disabled lives. Our lives and our survival depend on our agreeableness.”

A choice to die isn’t a free choice when life depends on good behaviours and compliance to societal norms. Sadly, the medical community can be complicit in this messaging.

Gabrielle Peters, a brilliant writer who has struggled with poverty since her disability, has shared that a health-care professional sat at her bedside and urged her to consider death. This was just after Peters’ partner announced he was leaving her because she was too much of a burden and she no longer fit into the life he wanted.

Doctors can pressure someone to die as in Peters’ situation but also more subtly can confirm a patient’s fears that her life is not worth living and MAiD would indeed be a good medical choice.

Day after day, we participate in a health-care system and a social support system that does not come close to meeting the basic needs of our most vulnerable patients. However, our role as physicians should always be to first advocate that our patients access all reasonable supports for meaningful life with no suffering…

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