Editorial: Second thought

  • December 3, 2020

The race towards expanding assess to assisted suicide continues on Parliament Hill despite all the common-sense pushback.

The debate on Bill C-7 moved from the House of Commons to the Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs last week and heard testimony from, among others, Health Minister Patty Hajdu. During that segment, it was Sen. Kim Pate, an independent, who stated the obvious: “Canadians now have an access to Medical Assistance in Dying protected by law, but do not have access to palliative care as a core service included in the Canada Health Act,” she said.

Why not, Pate asked, amend the bill to ensure Canadians have greater access to palliative care and support services?

Hajdu essentially agreed more could be done to address that issue, but “on this particular file, I think we need to move quickly.”

The rush, of course, is because the federal government has a court-ordered deadline of Dec. 18 to align the MAiD legislation with a Superior Court of Quebec ruling in 2019 that found the requirement of “reasonably foreseeable death” was unconstitutional.

Instead of appealing that ruling, the feds scrambled to appease the court. The amendments include removing the “foreseeable death” requirement and lifting the 90-day waiting period after approval is granted.

If that seems like a blank cheque for assisted death, Justice Minister David Lametti points out the legislation disqualifies those whose sole underlying condition is a mental illness — for now. He also told the Senate committee that the exclusion is “hopefully temporary” until an as-yet-to-convene Parliamentary review of the legislation is done, foreshadowing even more full-speed-ahead tactics.

There is certainly reason for opponents of Bill C-7 to be discouraged by this methodical erosion of the value this country has placed on preserving life. Since legalizing assisted suicide in 2016, the number of deaths has climbed alarmingly each year — from a thousand in the first year to more than 5,600 in 2019.

The Senate is often referred to as the chamber of “sober second thought.”

There is plenty for the committee to ponder, with briefs from a wide array of groups, including palliative care physicians and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In its brief, the bishops pointed out the structural weaknesses in our care for the elderly that have been exposed by the COVID-19 epidemic. Then they asked a question that ought to be more than enough to launch some sober second thought:

“How can the federal government in good conscience expand the eligibility to euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada when our country is still unable to offer basic human care which respects the dignity of the elderly and dying?”

This legislation isn’t answering that question.

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