Human Rights

Canadian mother says doctor pressured her to euthanize her disabled daughter

Assisted suicide may be growing in popularity, but opponents continue to speak out about the dangers of its legalization. While ostensibly meant for those suffering from a terminal illness who are seeking “death with dignity,” the reality is that the most vulnerable people become victimized by it — those who are elderly, disabled, poor, or ill. One mother found this out firsthand after a doctor pressured her to have her disabled daughter euthanized, within earshot of her daughter.

Canada legalized assisted suicide in June of 2016, and just one year later, the horrific consequences are already being felt. Sheila Elson’s 25-year-old daughter, Candice Lewis, has spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and chronic seizure disorder. Elson took Lewis for treatment at Labrador-Grenfell Health in Newfoundland after Lewis became sick. While Lewis was in the room, a doctor approached Elson, and broached the topic of euthanizing Lewis.

“His words were ‘assisted suicide death was legal in Canada’,” Elson said. “I was shocked, and said, ‘Well, I’m not really interested,’ and he told me I was being selfish.” Social workers later clarified that Elson couldn’t make that decision anyway — that Lewis would need to request assisted suicide, as she is capable of communicating — but it didn’t stop the doctor from trying to convince Elson to kill her daughter. She now is demanding an apology from the hospital, but was originally told that the doctor didn’t intend to cause her “distress.”

“I didn’t want another family going through what we went through,” Elson said. “People like her are being mistreated, and enough is enough. I’m not going to let them walk over her and mistreat her anymore.”

This horrific situation took place in September of 2016, just months after Canada had legalized assisted suicide.

Already in the United States, insurance companies are pushing patients into assisted suicide rather than paying for treatment. In Canada, the government is beginning a formal study to consider allowing people with mental illnesses to be euthanized.

One of Canada’s foremost assisted suicide proponents is Robert Latimer — a man who murdered his daughter because she had cerebral palsy. While Latimer was given a short prison sentence, many Canadians rallied around him, calling him a hero for ending his daughter’s “suffering.”

Looking to Europe, we find many more cases of people victimized by assisted suicide because they were autistic, alcoholics, transgender, victims of sexual abuse, disabled, elderly, and depressed. In the Netherlands, 400 people were euthanized without their consent in 2015 alone.

This is the reality of legalizing assisted suicide.

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