What 5 assisted dying advocates said about the government's new right-to-die bill

“There’s going to be a lot of unnecessary suffering,” said Laura Phelps, just one of many Canadians who —instead of rejoicing and celebrating the historic release of the physician-assisted dying legislation — felt disappointment, anger, and sadness. 

After initial reports came out last week, right-to-die advocates knew the Liberal government’s proposed legislation would be conservative in nature. We knew it likely would not allow patients to make advance requests for assisted dying, barring access to Canadians with degenerative conditions like dementia.

But we never expected it to be so restrictive. The most shocking aspect of the tabled legislation is its use of vague, unfamiliar language indicating that assisted dying will only be accessible to people whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.” This means patients suffering from muscular and neurological disorders like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), who have active, brilliant minds that are trapped in completely failing bodies, might not qualify.

Immediately after the legislation was released, Canadians across the country began speaking out against the harsh, discriminatory bill C-14 and about why Canadians desperately need legislation that opens up access instead of erecting unfair barriers. Here are some of their stories.

1) Laura Phelps, Victoria, B.C.

Phelps knows that both of her parents, who died horrific deaths after stroke complications, would not have qualified for assisted dying under the proposed legislation. Phelps expressed her disappointment over the bill and recalled the cruel choice her parents had to make after their respective strokes: ending their own lives in a legal, but horrific, way through starvation and dehydration. For many suffering Canadians, the restrictive nature of the bill will leave them behind to have to make similarly tragic choices. Click here for Laura’s story.

2) Sara Bennett Fox, New Westminster, B.C.

Sara Bennett Fox, whose mother Gillian Bennett, took her own life in 2014 after being diagnosed with dementia, spoke out in disappointment over the tabled legislation. She said the bill strips people of their right to make their own choices about their deaths, leaving individuals like her mother with cruel and devastating options: ending their own lives sometimes by violent means or living through a nightmare for way too long. Fox said the proposed legislation is “not simple. It’s mean. And we are not a country of mean people.” Click here to read her story.

3) Linda Jarrett, Kitchener, Ont.

“It’s almost like, instead of being told that I have [multiple sclerosis], it would have been better if I was diagnosed with a form of cancer because then I would be assured of accessing physician-assisted death when the end got near,” Linda Jarrett told CityNews. Jarett, who openly celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision last year, is now speaking out against the restrictions outlined in the bill. “I feel that the legislation that is being proposed is not giving me the rights that the Supreme Court seemed to give me 14 months ago. I’m disappointed, I’m angry.” Watch her heartbreaking video here.

4) Eddy LeFrancois, Northern Ontario

When Eddy LeFrancois, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 1990, first heard about the tabled legislation, he was happy. However, upon careful reflection, LeFrancois became disappointed by how restrictive the bill was. Hear more about his struggles with ALS (“I’m being buried alive”) in an incredible interview here.

5) Barb Gibson-Clifford, Sherwood Park, Alta.

Barb Gibson-Clifford said the new bill gives her some peace of mind—but it also raises a number of concerns. Gibson-Clifford, who’s had Stage Four sarcoma for 10 years, told Global News that the bill assures that she “can have a peaceful and dignified passing” at the end of her life. However, she said the bill fails to cover key recommendations made by the government’s Joint Committee, and slammed its requirement for mandatory 15-day reflection periods. “We’ve done all the thinking. We don’t just come up with this on the spur of the moment,” she said. Read more here.

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