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August 17, 2015

Many issues are being debated in the current federal election campaign; absent from the list is how elected officials should respond to the

Supreme Court decision overturning Canada's laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide. Such lack of attention is both bizarre and reprehensible.

The court on Feb. 6 gave the federal government one year to devise a law to regulate assisted suicide in Canada. In the ensuing six months, politicians have offered scant comment on how they will respond to this urgent isue of life and death. In July, the government appointed a three-member panel that will report back in the late fall after consulting "a broad array of participants," in the words of outgoing Justice Minister Peter MacKay.

It is, however, the cabinet, MacKay said, that will decide how to implement the court's ruling. That ruling calls for legislation to recognize the right of consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to seek medical assistance to end their lives.

The government has gone out of its way to ensure this will not become an election issue. Stalling for months before appointing its panel, the government has cynically delayed its

official response until after the election.

One could (and should) give the greatest blame for this avoidance of the issue to the governing Conservatives. Yet, the opposition parties have been complicit. This, despite a Liberal motion in the House of Commons to fast-track legislation on the issue. Since the Liberal motion was defeated Feb. 24, the party has offered nary a peep about assisted suicide.

A large majority of Canadians favour allowing euthanasia under limited conditions. Yet, this opinion has arisen in the absence of any serious public debate of the morality as well as the long-term implications of the Supreme Court ruling.

What better time to discuss this issue than during a lengthy federal election campaign? The politicians will decide on the law. Does not democracy require a full airing of parties' and candidates' stands on matters of life and death so the public can properly choose who should draft the new law?