Euthanasia bill defeated in House of Commons

  • April 22, 2010
EuthanasiaOTTAWA - Canada’s MPs have overwhelmingly rejected assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Bloc Quebecois MP ’s private member’s Bill C-384 went down to a resounding defeat April 21 by a vote of 228 to 59.

All save one Bloc Quebecois MP supported the motion, while all the Conservatives present, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, voted against it. Most Liberals and NDP MPs also voted against the bill, including NDP Leader Jack Layton. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was not in the House for the vote, but told journalists earlier in the day he did not support it.

Bill C-384 was Lalonde’s third attempt to bring euthanasia and assisted-suicide legislation before the House of Commons, but the first time it reached a vote. Her previous attempts died when federal elections were called in 2006 and 2008.

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director Alex Schadenberg applauded the result, which prevents the bill from going to committee for further study. Schadenberg welcomed continued debate, however, on how Canada can improve its care of vulnerable sick, elderly and disabled people.

“We know a lot of people have fear around end-of-life issues,” he said.

Shortly before the vote, a group of MPs announced the formation of a new parliamentary committee that would look at the deficiencies in Canada’s palliative care network as well as the nation’s treatment of the elderly, the disabled and the mentally ill. The Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care will examine several areas that have surfaced in the debate over Lalonde’s bill.

Many of those concerns surfaced in the two hours of debate devoted to Bill C-384.

Liberal MP Michael Savage choked up with emotion as he recounted how his parents both died of cancer within six weeks of each other.

“It is hard for anybody who has seen people they love die, like so many have, and not be impacted by that,” he said, adding that he cherished the opportunity to be with them during that time.

Savage, the Liberal human resources critic, said his parents’ death outlined the need for good home and palliative care services for all Canadians.

Lalonde wrapped up the debate with an appeal for autonomy.  

“It is the individual who must choose,” she said. “It is not society that must choose for the individual.”

She said she did not know what unbearable pain was when she first wrote about the issue in 2005, but after her diagnosis of cancer, said she knows now.

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