NRL News

Québec’s euthanasia bill 52: a time for reflection

by | Mar 11, 2014


By Alex Schadenberg, executive director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Catherine Frazee

Catherine Frazee

The following article was written by Catherine Frazee and published on March 4, 2014 as a special to the Montréal Gazette.

Catherine Frazee is a former chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, an emeritus professor in the school of disability studies at Ryerson University and an intellectual giant of our time.

With Quebec’s Bill 52 now stuck in legislative limbo because of an election call, perhaps there is time for us to listen closely to the overtones that are lingering from so much talk of “aid in dying.”

Resonating darkly from the fading debate is one idea about dying — not the only idea, but one that has gripped us firmly. It is the idea of dying as relentless decline, a ruthless assault upon the selves we once were. In the shadow of this idea, greater fear is provoked by dying than by death itself. Little wonder that “aid in dying” offers to forgo the dying process, advancing directly to death.

Perhaps we have chosen this particular idea about dying because of certain “habits of the heart” — certain reflexive assumptions about dignity and autonomy. And perhaps those convictions warrant an honest reconsideration.

Is human dignity truly bound up with the mechanics of personal hygiene? Or is dignity more about the intricate chemistry of how we are held in care and regard by those who stand near?

Is autonomy really the blunt “carte blanche” of individual will? Or is it the pulsing engine of the warrior’s heart, hell-bent on its defense of a vital, expressive, even if diminishing, self?

The alternative idea of dignity and autonomy is what people with long-standing disabilities can be heard saying, if and when courts and media pause to listen.

The debilitations of disability, shame and stigma are layered like paint upon the canvases of our lives. Unlike the chorus of esteem that elevates certain embodied states, however frightful — birthing comes to mind — a drone of pity and repugnance compels a retreat from disability.

Yet Canadians with disabilities hold fast to an account of our lives as utterly dignified and richly interdependent. From the largest and most representative organizations giving political voice to disabled citizens and our families have come persistent and dire warnings that when we permit in the name of dignity the killing of some persons, we set in motion an irreversible unraveling of our delicate social fabric.

Editor’s note. This appeared at

Categories: Euthanasia