Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 5, 2008
Assisted suicide bill returns for another go-round
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) warns that the re-introduction of an assisted suicide bill would threaten the lives of disabled and vulnerable Canadians.
Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde, who introduced an assisted suicide bill in 2005, plans to reintroduce a similar version of the private member's bill. She told Canadian Catholic News she may introduce it as early as this spring, or when Parliament resumes in the fall.
Though some of the wording will be changed to make it clearer or more in line with similar legislation in other jurisdictions, Lalonde said her new bill with otherwise be the same.
According to EPC executive director Alex Schadenberg, Lalonde's earlier bill would have allowed one person to kill another.
"Once society allows one person to kill another, it becomes impossible to protect those who are made to feel like a burden upon society," he said in a news alert.
Private members business operates under a lottery system. In the previous Parliament, Lalonde drew a lower number, which meant her bill went to the House of Commons for debate in October 2005. She drew a much higher number this time, so she recognizes if she introduces the bill, "it won't be studied."
"I may wait for next legislature and hope that the lottery will favour me," she said.
Lalonde, 67, recently returned to the House of Commons after a bout with a form of cancer that could lead to a painful death. So far the treatment she received appears to be successful, and she hopes for another eight to 10 years of good health.
Did her brush with a potentially painful death have any influence on her attitude to assisted suicide?
"None," she said. "Because I didn't have any cancer when I started with that bill."
Lalonde said her conviction that there is a right to die under "some precise circumstances" was "already very strong."
Nor did cancer make her change her mind. "On the contrary," she said.
While Schadenberg and other pro-life advocates warn of a slippery slope that would soon involve involuntary euthanasia, Lalonde sees a slippery slope of another kind.
For her, it involves the moral pressure suffering people place on their caregivers to kill them. "We are on this slope," she said, noting recent cases in Quebec where caregivers have faced criminal charges in the death of loved ones.
Schadenberg has raised concerns that Lalonde's earlier bill did not require people suffering from chronic physical or mental pain to receive treatment because even those who had refused treatment could qualify. He stressed that treatment is available.
The bill lacks safeguards to prevent abuses, he said. Nor did it limit euthanasia to physicians. The bill would have allowed anyone, "assisted by a medical practitioner," to help a person who had expressed a wish to die.
He also objected to vague wording that people giving consent "appear to be lucid." Lalonde said that wording will be changed.
Lalonde has kept herself going by focusing on the people she loves, and what she hopes to accomplish. She is not afraid of death. "I think it is desirable to have people think about death, even if you think it will not come soon," she said.
Does she believe in an afterlife? "Frankly, I don't know."