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Better dead than disabled? The consequences of extending access to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) to disabled people

Critical Sociology Webinar 2023

This webinar is co-sponsored by the Canadian Sociological Association’s Sociology of Disability Research Cluster.

Disabled people are Canada’s largest minority group, at 22%. MAiD eligibility was extended in 2021 to disabled Canadians not near death, ignoring their human rights. Because no other group was targeted, this glaring inequity constitutes endemic ableism and eugenics.

During the debate on extending MAiD, disability activists argued that, because supports for disabled people have been cut, those who cannot access services they need might access MAiD instead. Media are now documenting such deaths and the social conditions that prompt them: poverty-level incomes, inadequate housing, and being forced into long-term-care institutions. Healthcare practice enables ableist eugenics. Prospective parents are pressured to have genetic screening and then to abort fetuses with conditions such as Downs Syndrome. Now no-one with this disability is born in Iceland. These policies and practices contradict decades-long advocacy to expand services for disabled people so they can lead dignified lives.

Panelists with lived experience of disability will describe the consequences of extending MAiD to disabled people not near death. The presentations will stimulate reflection and action among audience members to re-imagine a world that honours human differences.

Watch the recording

*Watch Dr. Trudo Lemmens’ presentation
We were unable to play this video during the webinar due to technical issues.

Transcript (Zoom generated)
Audience Questions and Comments


Dr. Margaret Oldfield, Independent Social Scientist and Disability Scholar

Margaret Oldfield, Ph.D, is an independent social scientist and disability scholar-activist. Her research focuses on changing workplaces and policy to enable people with chronic illnesses to remain employed. She uses critical-disability-studies principles to explore the experiences of long-term-care (LTC) residents and the power structures surrounding them; collaboration among staff, family members, and residents; and non-institutional alternatives to LTC. Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) is another interest. She is on the steering committee of the international organization Reimagining Dementia; a partner on the Disability Confidence in Finance project; a team member on the research project ‘The Impact of Remote Work on Workplace Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities’; and teaches academic writing to disabled students. Dr. Oldfield’s scholarship can be viewed at www.researchgate.net/profile/Margaret-Oldfield/research


Dr. Diane Driedger, Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Disability Studies, University of Manitoba

Diane Driedger, Ph.D., has published eleven books. Her latest book is, Still Living the Edges: A Disabled Women’s Reader (Inanna, 2021). She is also a poet and visual artist. She has been involved in the disability rights movement for 40 years, which includes working with Disabled Peoples’ International, Council of Canadians with Disabilities, and DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN-RAFH) Canada. Diane is Assistant Professor in the Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Disability Studies at the University of Manitoba.

Dr. Nancy Hansen, Director, lnterdisciplinary Master’s Program in Disability Studies, University of Manitoba

Nancy Hansen, Ph.D., is a Professor and Director of the Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Disability Studies at the University of Manitoba. Nancy obtained a PhD (Human Geography) from the University of Glasgow, and her research interests in disability studies are varied, including disability in spaces of culture education, literacy social policy, employment, healthcare, MAiD, COVID-19, access and experiences of disabled and LGBTQ communities in post-conflict areas. She is co-editor of the Routledge History of Disability and Untold Stories: A Canadian Disability History Reader. In addition, Nancy has written numerous book chapters and contributed to various international academic journals. Her latest publication is DisAppearing disability: Disability MAiD invisible. In Titchkosky, Cagulada, DeWelles & Gold, (Eds.), DisAppearing: Encounters in disability studies. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press. (2022). https://canadianscholars.ca/book/disappearing/

Dr. Trudo Lemmens, Professor, Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy, University of Toronto

Trudo Lemmens is Professor and Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy at the Faculty of Law and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health of the University of Toronto. Professor Lemmens’ publications include two co-authored books, two co-edited volumes, as well as numerous chapters and articles in law, policy, science, medicine and bioethics journals. He was a member of the Council of Canadian Academies’ expert panel on Medical Aid in Dying, an expert witness for the federal Attorney General in the Truchon and Lamb cases, and he has testified before Canadian Parliamentary committees mandated to discuss draft legislation and the review of the practice. He has also been consulted as an expert on these issues internationally.

For more information: https://www.law.utoronto.ca/faculty-staff/full-time-faculty/trudo-lemmens

Dr. Gregor Wolbring, Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary

Gregor Wolbring, Ph.D., is Full Professor of Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies in the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. He is a member of the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe, Germany and a fellow of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa. Some of his areas of engagement are impact of science and technology on marginalized populations, especially people with disabilities, ethics issues, health policy issues, ability studies including governance of ability expectations, disability studies, governance of emerging and existing sciences and technologies, governance of bodily enhancement, sustainability issues, EcoHealth, resilience, human rights and sport. Dr. Wolbring’s scholarly work can be viewed at https://wolbring.wordpress.com/about/