Liberal Senator Larry Campbell and Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth introduced a euthanasia and assisted suicide bill in the Senate on Dec. 2. Photos from Parliament of Canada

Senators introduce assisted suicide bill to fast-track debate

  • December 5, 2014

OTTAWA - Two senators introduced a euthanasia and assisted suicide bill was introduced in the Senate Dec. 2 which may ensure debate on this controversial matter reaches the House of Commons before next year’s federal election.

Senate Bill S-225, introduced by Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth and seconded by Liberal Senator Larry Campbell, is modeled on Conservative MP Steven Fletcher’s private member’s bill. But Fletcher knew his bill was unlikely to come up for debate before the October 2015 election date.

“I knew going in where I was on the order of precedence, which was last,” said Fletcher at a news conference Dec. 2 with Ruth and Campbell. “And part of the parliamentary strategy has always been to go to the Senate to have it debated in the Senate, passed through the Senate and then go to the House of Commons.

“I’m very grateful that Nancy Ruth and Larry Campbell have taken the torch and brought it over to the Senate, and I think this is an opportunity in fact for the Senate to shine, to demonstrate why the Senate is there. They’re dealing with an issue that obviously most elected representatives do not want to deal with.”

Fletcher is the first quadriplegic to serve as a Member of Parliament. His vehicle collided with a moose when he was 23, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down and requiring 24 hour assistance.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) promptly criticized the bill, calling its language “intentionally permissive.”

“The bill is designed to protect physicians who act by lethally injecting or assisting the suicide of their patients. It is not designed to protect the patients,” said executive director Alex Schadenberg in a blog post. The bill would allow “euthanasia and assisted suicide for people with disabilities," for people with undefined “psychological suffering” and is “not limited to terminal illness.”

“The bill requires the physician to self-report the death after it has already occurred,” said Schadenberg. “This assumes that physicians will self-report abuse of the law. Since the patient is dead, when the act is reported, therefore no actual protection exists for the patient.”

Ruth said she and Campbell have made a few changes to Fletcher’s bill. “You know, when I saw the Dying with Dignity Ipsos-Reid poll in September, I was amazed that 84 per cent of Canadians now want this to be discussed,” she said.

The Harper government, however, has said repeatedly it does not wish to reopen the debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide, pointing out Parliament defeated a 2010 bill by a large majority.

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