Liberals Moving Forward on Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
Over the years, many constituents have contacted me to express their concerns over physician assisted suicide, or euthanasia. In 2010, then Bloc Quebecois, MP Francine Lalonde introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons that eventually came to a vote. We were opposed to her proposed euthanasia law and so were the majority of Members of Parliament who voted down her bill.
It is only a few years later, and the unelected Supreme Court Justices have pushed the issue of assisted-suicide back onto the federal political agenda, demanding Parliament to pass a law before the House rises this summer. As your Member of Parliament, I am skeptical and find it worrisome that once again, a few unelected justices are actively short-circuiting the law-making process Canada has that provides for democratically elected representatives of the people to decide these issues. It seems to me that too often policy decisions are repeatedly forced on our legislatures by judicial activists. We all know of issues that have been brought forward repeatedly until the desired outcome of the minority is achieved.
Most recently, the Report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying has been tabled in Parliament. This committee, dominated by a majority of Liberal Members of Parliament, makes recommendations in their Report that even go far beyond the issues raised by the Supreme Court and ignores deeply held beliefs that many Canadians share. Conservative MPs on the committee wrote a Dissenting Report entitled, “More Safeguards are needed for the Vulnerable” (starting at page 51, available at http://www.parl.gc.ca/Committees/en/PDAM.)
Many of us believe that the conscience rights of individuals, organizations and institutions should be protected. Conservatives on the committee felt strongly that the report does not reflect this basic tenant. We want protection for physicians who will refuse – because of reasons of religion or conscience – to perform a ‘lifeending’ procedure. They want the freedom to refuse to ‘refer’ a patient to a medical practitioner who will conduct such procedures. The Liberal government should not force Canadian medical professionals to violate their Hippocratic Oath if they feel they cannot do it.
The Liberals do not agree, for example, that a person must suffer from a terminal illness in order to qualify for assisted suicide or euthanasia. They even want to include young people (under the age of majority) to have access to assisted dying in future legislation.
We want laws that would require effective palliative care to be offered to competent adults requesting physician assisted suicide. Euthanasia should not be used in place of palliative care.
Many of us are concerned about the officials (doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers, and/or judges) and the processes that will have the authority to approve assisted suicide or euthanasia.
The recommendations in the Committee’s Report place vulnerable Canadians, including seniors, at risk in my view. The report ignores the need for stringent safeguards.
Many are viewing this Report as the most extreme set of recommendations for legislation to govern doctor assisted suicide in the world. What the Liberals have planned goes beyond the laws in all of the jurisdictions that currently have such legislation.
It is disappointing that the Liberals are now finished with this matter having held only 16 meetings, heard from 61 witnesses and considered about a 100 written submissions. They will be launching their draft Bill in the House of Commons soon. I hope everyone takes a moment to contact the Prime Minister, the Liberal Justice Minister and Health Minister to share their opinion. As always, I invite everyone in our riding to please send me a copy. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or previous columns you may write me at 4945-50th Street, Camrose, Alberta, T4V 1P9, call 780-608-4600, toll-free 1-800665-4358, fax 780-608-4603 or e-mail Kevin.Sorenson.email@example.com.