Euthanasia debate appeals to few Canadian politicians

  • October 8, 2009

{mosimage}OTTAWA - A sea of empty chairs on the floor and a virtually empty gallery greeted Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde’s opening speech on the first hour of debate on her bill to legalize assisted suicide Oct. 2. 

Only about 20 MPs were present, scattered along the margins.

“My conviction has grown stronger, and that is why I am introducing an amended bill on the right to die with dignity, Bill C-384,” said Lalonde. 

She explained her bill would amend the Criminal Code so that “a medical practitioner does not commit homicide just by helping a person to die with dignity.” This is the third time Lalonde has introduced a bill on assisted suicide. Two previous attempts died when elections were called.

Lalonde noted the conditions to be eligible for an assisted suicide include the person being at least 18, have a terminal illness and be suffering “severe physical or mental pain without any prospect for relief and suffers from a terminal illness.”

Of the seven MPs who responded to Lalonde, only one, Bloc MP Serge Cardin, spoke in favour of her bill.

Conservative MP David Anderson, who is Natural Resources parliamentary secretary, led the response.

“There were so many failures of logic, and so much misinformation and misguided information there that I hardly know where to start,” Anderson said.

“We need to understand that allowing people to die is a far cry from causing their death,” he said. Countries that have given the “choice” have “developed death tourism,” he said.

Liberal MP John McKay used the analogy of capital punishment, pointing out that many people who were later found to be falsely convicted would have died. He warned mistakes would be inevitable as a result of Bill C-384.

Conservative MP Jacques Gourde, who is Public Works parliamentary secretary, said Bill C-384  would allow people who suffer depression to request a doctor’s help in committing suicide. He criticized the bill’s insufficient safeguards.

“Parliament should not consider such profound changes to the law without prior input from Canadians,” Gourde said, noting the “serious implications” for the medical profession.

NDP MP Joe Comartin opposed the bill, saying it would be a “tragedy” if Canada adopted assisted suicide without providing the option of good palliative care and hospice care. 

Lalonde’s bill comes up for a second hour of debate in early November. After that debate, it will go to a second reading vote. If it passes, then the bill will go to the Commons justice committee for further study.

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