May 9th, 2018
"Who Counts?":
Disability Advocates Reflect on Living - and Dying - with Dignity
This week's addition to the VPS campaign, " Why Monitoring Matters ", comes in the form of a powerful contribution of poetry by VPS Advisor Rhonda Wiebe. Titled "Who Counts?", the poem featured today in the VPS blog offers an unflinching look at the conditions of societal neglect in which to many Canadians live - "the exclusions, the isolations, the days when the only choice is to stay under the covers". 

From her many contributions as a VPS Advisor, Rhonda Wiebe understands the burden of suffering borne by persons with illnesses or disabilities whose needs for support remain unmet. When possibilities for living with dignity are denied, and when no notice is taken of the daily - and cumulative - toll of such conditions, the failures in MAiD monitoring can be catastrophic:

"They say when you die when you ask to die
that they'll scan your existing pathology
and fill in the blank with a disease
so no one will know
if you reached your limits 

And no one will count
what those limits are." 

Echoing the sentiments of Rhonda Wiebe's blog entry this week is a compelling interview on the CBC's The Current, entitled "A Compromised Life Is Worth Living". In it, disability advocate Ing Wong-Ward asserts that neither disability nor terminal illness rob life of dignity. Rather, when medical and social supports are inadequate or unavailable, suffering will be immense and the will to live is eroded. 

"I think we need to have a greater understanding of who is choosing medical assistance in dying, and why. The "why" piece is extremely critical to me, because... across the country, people are not able to access palliative care and hospice care in a timely fashion. People with disabilities are not able to access the supports that they need in various parts of the country, and that makes your will to live much lesser..." 

Testimonial accounts such as Rhonda Wiebe's and Ing Wong-Ward's eloquently reinforce the conclusion reached in last week's VPS blog by Professor Michael Prince

"Responsible monitoring of medical assistance with dying means the draft regulations must be amended to ensure that information about a person's experiences of suffering include the social and economic realities of disadvantages and discrimination endured by so many disabled Canadians."


  • A Compromised Life Is Worth Living, CBC Radio, The Current, May 3, 2018. An intimate interview with advocate Ing Wong Ward about her experience with terminal illness and palliative care and her views about disability, dignity and medical assistance in dying.

Highlighting recent peer-reviewed research and scholarship of interest to VPS supporters.

In a public opinion survey that canvassed the opinions of 15,000 Canadians, over 75% of respondents were of the opinion that a comprehensive National Home Care Strategy, a National Palliative Care Strategy and a National Strategy for Disability Supports were among the most important safeguards necessary for Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada. (The survey was conducted in 2015 by the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada.)

The Vulnerable Persons Standard was developed by a group of more than forty advisors with expertise in medicine, ethics, law, public policy and needs of vulnerable persons. The Standard is a series of evidence-based safeguards intended to help ensure that Canadians requesting assistance from physicians to end their life can do so without jeopardizing the lives of vulnerable persons who may be subject to coercion and abuse. 

To learn more about the Standard and the many Canadians and organizations endorsing the Standard, please visit us at
Vulnerable Persons Secretariat

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