Media Release: Safeguards required to avoid discrimination, coercion regarding Medical Aid in Dying

Media Release: Safeguards required to avoid discrimination, coercion regarding Medical Aid in Dying


Safeguards required to avoid discrimination, coercion regarding Medical Aid in Dying

For immediate release

(St. John’s, NL—July 25, 2017) The Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – NL has released a position statement in response to a recent article in The Telegram around Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD).

Coalition Executive Director, Emily Christy, was deeply troubled when she read the article “Repulsed by Suggestion” (Section A6) on July 21, 2017. In her Letter to the Editor of The Telegram, Christy voiced the following concerns:

“I could not believe what I was reading. A doctor in St. Anthony had offered Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) to the mother of a woman with spina bifida, cerebral palsy and chronic seizure disorder. Just finishing up the night before, we were talking about ways the federal government can work towards making our country more inclusive, breaking down barriers and fighting attitudinal discrimination and stigmas against persons with disabilities and the next day, I read about an overt discriminatory situation happening right now in our province.

Here’s why this situation is a human rights issue. In Canada, we now have legislation that allows for individuals to request Medical Aid in Dying. There are important and clearly essential safeguards in place that ensure an individual’s rights are upheld and that coercion is not factored into an individual’s decision to make that choice. Now, it should be clear that I have deliberately used a very specific word in my last sentence – CHOICE. The legislation clearly states that this is about the individual’s choice to have this option considered. It is, however, not a doctor’s place to offer this as an option. Because that is where lies the grey area of coercion. In fact, in order for someone to be eligible for MAiD, it clearly states an individual “make a voluntary request for medical assistance in dying that is not the result of outside pressure or influence.”  Medical professionals are in a position of power and their biases can influence someone’s choice, especially when they make their own discriminatory decisions about someone’s value and worth—a fate far too often felt by people with disabilities.

Another eligibility criteria on the list is to have a “grievous and irremediable medical condition.” This eligibility component is one the disability community advocates are more worried about. Because, of course, under this section it says the patient must “have a serious illness, disease or disability.” And in the case of Candice Lewis of St. Anthony, she does have a series of complex disabilities, one’s she has had her whole life – for 25 years. However, it is simply not just about having a disability that makes you eligible for MAiD. You are required to meet all four requirements under the “grievous and irremediable medical condition.”  You must also “be in an advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed, experience unbearable physical or mental suffering from your illness, disease, disability or state of decline that cannot be relieved under conditions that you consider acceptable,” and “be at a point where your natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.”

The new Medical Aid in Dying Act was assented by the federal government June 17, 2016. Yet, we have heard little from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador on how they intend to ensure the lives of persons with disabilities are respected and protected under this law. No parent wants to hear that their child is a “burden” or that they are “being selfish” for loving them, taking care of them and making sure their needs are met the best they can. What they want to hear is that the health authorities in this province are here to help and provide the best care possible for their loved one and work together to make that happen.”

The Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – NL encourages members of the disability community and their families to share their concerns and views with the Honourable Sherry Gambin-Walsh, Minister responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities and the Honourable Dr. John Haggie, Minister of Health and Community Services.

To learn more about the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – NL, visit

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Emily Christy, Executive Director
Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – NL   |   T: (709) 722-7011   |  E:

Jennifer Barnable, Research & Communications Coordinator
Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – NL   |   T: (709) 722-7011   |  E:

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