Tory MP tables two private member's bills on assisted suicide
Sonja Puzic and Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, March 27, 2014 6:27AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 27, 2014 2:06PM EDT
Steven Fletcher, a Conservative MP who was paralyzed from the neck down in a 1996 car accident, has tabled two private member's bills on assisted suicide.
One of the bills seeks to allow doctors help people end their lives under certain restricted circumstances.
The second bill would set up a commission to monitor the system, as well as review statistics on requests for assisted suicide, including sex, age, and the types of injuries or ailments.
The Manitoba MP said he's tabled the bills because he believes that the issue deserves to be addressed by elected lawmakers rather than the courts.
"Parliament should be making these decisions even though they're tough decisions," he said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. "However, the reality in Canada is that this issue is going to be decided by the Supreme Court this fall by unelected, unaccountable judges."
The Supreme Court of Canada agreed earlier this year to take another look at the ban on assisted suicide.
Fletcher said that regardless of where his fellow MPs stand on the political spectrum, the issue warrants a thorough debate in the House of Commons.
"We really have not had that debate in Parliament and it's a long time overdue," he said.
Fletcher said that the bill strikes "a balance" between giving people choice when it comes to end-of-life decisions, and protecting vulnerable populations.
He added that the legislation will have extra safeguards in place to prevent assisted suicide in the case where any individual or institution might benefit from a person’s death.
He said that, under current laws in Canada, people are already resorting to desperate measures to end their own lives.
"We know that people are starving themselves to death today in Canada. We know that there are cases where the doctors increase the morphine drip, just to speed up that dying process," he said, noting that it's often done in an "under the table manner."
Therefore the establishment of a commission tasked with overseeing and tracking requests for assisted suicide would help to “shed light into the shadows of what is already happening,” he said.
Fletcher described some of the criteria a patient would have to meet in order to access an assisted suicide. Patients seeking a physician-assisted death must be “competent” adults over the age of 18, who have a major illness or disability, he said.
As well, a doctor who is unrelated to the case will assess the circumstances to help ensure impartiality. The patient must be presented with information about all other options available to them, and there will also be a minimum 14-day waiting period after a request has been made. The request can be stopped at any time, he added.
Earlier Thursday, Fletcher argued that if a competent adult with all the available information makes the decision to end their life, then that should be their right.
"Who are we to impose our values and ethics on that person?" he told CTV's Canada AM.
Fletcher's bills are a stark departure from the government’s stance on the issue. Justice Minister Peter MacKay said this week he has no interest in re-opening the assisted suicide debate.
Others, including Saskatchewan Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, said they will vote against the bills.
But Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair said Wednesday that Fletcher is "taking a step in the right direction" because the government needs to “modernize” its approach to the controversial issue.
With files from The Canadian Press