Blowing the Whistle on MAiD/Bill C-7 and the Naturalization of Disability and Mental Illness

As a disabled philosopher of disability, one of the most (though certainly not the most) frustrating aspects of the recent discussions and debates about MAiD and Bill C-7 that have ensued in the Canadian Senate, on Daily Nous and other blogs, on Facebook, and on Twitter is the way that disability and mental illness have been naturalized in these discussions and debates, including by philosophers who have made a variety of interventions in various venues.

These interventions by Senators and philosophers (among others), including by feminist philosophers, have relied upon outdated and uninformed ideas about the ontology of disability and the cluster of notions that surround it, about the discursive constitution of this ontology and the notions that surround it (including the discursive construction of the notion of suffering), and about their politically potent character, ignoring the cutting-edge work that I and other philosophers and theorists of disability have produced for at least the last decade and venerating the argumentative claims of the (predominantly nondisabled, white, male) bioethicists who continue to shape philosophy in Canada.

I am therefore pleased that BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY can now help to “blow the whistle” on some of the naturalizing, depoliticizing, and individualizing claims and assumptions advanced in the discussions and debates that have taken place in the Canadian Senate and elsewhere.

I have included below attachments for two documents in which David Healy, a professor of psychiatry at McMaster University, argues that relevant professional endeavours in which Senator Kutcher (a psychiatrist and one of the leading proponents of Bill C-7) has engaged constitute professional misconduct, implying that these infractions must be taken into account in any future deliberations about MAiD and Bill C-7 by the Canadian federal government. These attachments were included in a communication that has been sent to David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Canada; Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada; and Matthew Green, the Member of Parliament for Hamilton Centre (New Democratic Party), the constituency in which Healy resides and I too reside.

It is, of course, an open question whether any action taken by the Government of Canada will compensate the disabled people who, during the past week, presented to the Senate compelling evidence of the expected harmful effects of Bill C-7 and who, in generously doing so, confronted considerable verbal abuse, dismissiveness, and other forms of ableist discrimination in the Senate Zoom sessions themselves, on social media, and in the mainstream press.

Indeed, I wish that more philosophers had witnessed this inflammatory and even vengeful treatment of these disabled Canadians so that considerations of the epistemology of domination and epistemic injustice that conditioned this entire moment in the history of eugenics in Canada will become a vital part of the instruction that philosophers offer when they teach about these ideas in their future social epistemology courses and bioethicists provide when they teach about MAiD and Bill C-7 in their upcoming bioethics courses.

The contents of David Healy’s stunning documents can also be read at his blog here.

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