Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 4, 2005
Assisted suicide next
Bloc MP tables 'die with dignity' Bill C-407
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
While the House of Commons' same-sex marriage debate was in its last throes, a Bloc Quebecois MP tabled a private member's bill that promises to make assisted suicide the next divisive moral issue facing Canada.
Francine Lalonde tabled Bill C-407 June 15, but she does not expect first reading debate until October.
"This is not euthanasia," Lalonde said in an interview. "This is the right to die with dignity for the person."
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, describes Bill C-407 as one of the worst bills he has seen. "The nature of assisted suicide does not allow you to provide protection for vulnerable people," he said. "The whole idea is wrong from the beginning. Assisted suicide is a direct threat to those with chronic disabilities and the elderly."
Schadenberg said that disabled, elderly and chronically ill people are often dependent on others for their care. That dependency makes them vulnerable to pressure to kill themselves as a way of relieving burdens on caregivers.
"It's an issue of the powerful over the weak," he said. "We can't bring in a law that allows you to kill someone."
Lalonde disagrees. "Some situations bring with them complaints that cannot be helped," she said.
She believes that she has built safeguards into her bill to prevent abuse.
According to the bill, the person must be at least 18 years old. The person must be experiencing severe physical or mental pain, or suffering from a terminal illness, and has made two free and informed requests - "while appearing to be lucid" - more than 10 days apart clearly expressing his or her wish to die to a medical practitioner or "to the person who aids the person to die."
Schadenberg says the restrictions are so "wide open" as to be meaningless, except the age requirement.
He said Lalonde's bill doesn't require the person be competent, only that he or she "must appear to be lucid. He asks how one can define "appear to be lucid."
In Oregon, where the assisted suicide law requires a second doctor's opinion, a person failing to get that second opinion goes to the Right to Die Society for a referral to a doctor who will provide one, he said.
Lalonde pointed favourably to the experience of Holland and Belgium, denying reports that thousands of people have been involuntarily euthanized in the Netherlands since the country liberalized its laws.
Senator Sharon Carstairs, who recently released a report card on end-of-life and palliative care in Canada, warned that those opting for assisted suicide would be making a choice in a vacuum if good palliative care was not available.
Lalonde says her bill is necessary because good palliative care is not always available and denies that assisted suicide legislation will drive away society's commitment to better end-of-life care.
Schadenberg says this legislation will change how people view their physicians. "Is your physician coming in as a healer, or as someone coming in to take your life?" he said.
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