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Little agreement on assisted-suicide bill

July 2009

A Parliamentary private member’s bill that could legalize assisted suicide in Canada has the support of at least one Montreal-area MP contacted by the Senior Times, while a second says the matter merits further investigation, and a third remains firmly opposed.

Francine Lalonde, the Bloc Québécois MP for the east-end Montreal riding of Pointe-de-l’Île, is sponsoring the bill,which had its first reading earlier this year in Ottawa. Initially introduced in 2005, the legislation died twice on the order paper since then, when elections were called.

In a press release issued in May by the Bloc, coinciding with Lalonde’s latest attempt to get the bill passed, she said, “Over the years, there have been many debates, but also the anguish of all those persons who would like us to help them shorten their suffering and put an end to the degradation of their capacities when they have no hope of return.

“The draft legislation we are proposing has as its goal to help the person who is suffering from acute physical pain without the possibility of relief, or to help someone who is afflicted by a disease in its terminal phase to die with dignity when he or she consents in a manner that is free and clear.”

Lalonde insists that the proposed law isn’t anti-life and wouldn’t open the doors to abuse. The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg have had laws allowing assisted suicide since 2000. In the U.S., the state of Oregon has allowed assisted suicide since 1997, and the state of Washington allowed it last November after holding a referendum.

Outremont NDP MP Thomas Mulcair says the bill needs further consideration, while NDG-Lachine Liberal MP Marlene Jennings is firmly opposed. Photos: Martin C. Barry

NDG-Lachine Liberal MP Marlene Jennings had no hesitation to declare her complete opposition. “I think that human life has real value,” she said. “I can understand and have a great deal of sympathy for people who are terminally ill, for instance. But I think we should be putting more of our resources into ensuring that there’s proper pain management, for instance, rather than looking at extremes.”

Jennings claims there is evidence that in countries where assisted suicide is legal, doctors have not always followed the protocols. “There has been serious concern that family members have requested euthanasia of another family member and that person has not given their full consent,” she said. “I think that there’s just too much scope for abuse. While it may be something that the public may wish to discuss, I honestly have never had a constituent come to me that I can remember, saying they wanted the criminal code changed to allow for euthanasia.”

Outremont NDP MP Thomas Mulcair, who is also his party’s point man in this province, said,“I don’t think it’s something that one private member can stand up and simply do. I think we should sit down with experts on medical ethics like Margaret Somerville, people of that nature, and see if there’s anything that actually has to be done in Canada right now.

“As things now stand, I think that Canada has a fairly good balance in the world,”he added. “We’re not countries like Switzerland where they’re considered open on this subject. I don’t think that’s where we want to be in Canada. Are there times when medical professionals should have more leeway? In clearly indicated circumstances perhaps. But again that can only happen after very mature deliberation and I think we’re not there yet.”

While Jennings maintains MPs are not obliged to toe the party line when voting on private member’s bills, and that Lalonde’s appears to have little support in Parliament, Nicole Demers, the Bloc Québécois MP for Laval, said she’ll be voting in favour, as will many other MPs in her party. “It’s a private member’s bill, but Francine has had the support of our colleagues for a very long time,” she said.

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1 Comments:

At September 9, 2009 at 12:37 PM , Anonymous Thomas said...

When I want paleolithic supersitions to control my life, I'll join one. How, in a supposed secular state, did these pathetic religions get control of our legislation and our lives? Must the sufferer resort to firearms or street heroin?

 

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