Amy Hasbrouck, a spokesperson for disability rights group Not Dead Yet Canada, told CNA that the opposition to assisted suicide from many in the disabled community is based on concerns that assisted suicide legislation discriminates against the disabled and puts vulnerable people at risk for coercion.
"People with disabilities who ask to die are considered to be making a 'rational' choice, whereas non-disabled people who express a wish to die are labelled as irrational, in need of suicide prevention intervention, and may even be deprived of their liberty to prevent them from killing themselves," Hasbrouck told CNA in email comments.
"This double standard is based on the widely-held view that life with a disability is a fate worse than death," she said.
She also shared Uditsky's concern that offering assisted suicide to a vulnerable population disincentivizes the government and society in providing resources and life supports.
"The reasons most people ask for assisted suicide and euthanasia are associated with the onset of disability and the discriminatory public policies that shunts old, ill and disabled people into institutional settings, where we are deprived of control over every detail of our daily lives," she said.
"A shift in funding priorities toward consumer-directed in-home personal assistance services, home modifications and community accessibility would go a long way toward dealing with the existential suffering expressed by people who do not want to be forced to live in an institution."
There are no amount of safeguards that a government can put in place that would prevent people from being coerced into assisted suicide, Hasbrouck added.
Even "the strictest safeguards cannot predict or prevent all eventualities," Hasbrouck said, and currently "none of the statutes … even comes close to preventing ineligible people from being euthanized, ensuring that doctors report every assisted suicide or euthanasia, protecting against abuse and exploitation by family members, or any number of hazards associated with allowing the state to establish criteria for who lives and who dies."
Similar concerns were also raised in the recent case of a Canadian man, Roger Foley, who suffers from an incurable disease and claims that despite asking for home care, the medical team at an Ontario hospital would only offer him assisted suicide.
Since Quebec's assisted death law and the federal legislation came into force two years ago, 3,714 Canadians have died by assisted suicide, according to the CBC.
Besides those with disabilities, the Council of Canadian Academies is also currently reviewing whether assisted suicide should be provided to the mentally ill and to "competent minors."
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The Quebec Supreme Court case is expected to last several weeks.