Canadian MP Wants Parliament to Debate Assisted Suicide Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 23, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canadian MP Wants Parliament to Debate Assisted Suicide Bill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 23, 2005

Ottawa, Canada ( — If Quebec lawmaker Francine Lalonde has her way, the Canadian parliament will debate and approve a bill she’s filed to legalize assisted suicide. She thinks most Canadians support the practice and that the Canadian government has a "moral obligation" to review the bill.

"The choice to die with dignity should be a right," she told C-News.

Under her bill, Canadian law would make it legal to assist in the death of someone with a terminal illness or incurable physical or mental disease.

Kathy St. John, executive director of Dying With Dignity, agreed with Alone and told C-News that it’s time to change Canadian law.

"We’re going to see more and more of these cases until we address it. But it’s a hot potato — we’re talking about assisting death. It continues to be a taboo subject for a lot of people," she said.

According to the bill, a patient must make two requests to die and the requests must be more than 10 days apart. The person who engages in killing the patient must be a doctor or helped by one.

Conservative lawmaker Vic Toews said Canadians don’t back assisted suicide and he worried about discrimination against the elderly and disabled if the current law is repealed.

Meanwhile, Ottawa’s archbishop is rallying Catholics against assisted suicide.

Archbishop Marcel Gervais’ recent annual Pro-Life Sunday message opposed euthanasia and he said that only God should decide when someone’s life ends.

Gervais warned that "the messengers of death are all around us," according to an Ottawa Sun report, and said he expected a fierce national debate in Canada over the issue.

Polling data has shown that support for assisted suicide in Canada is diminishing.

Pollara, a Canadian polling firm, conducted a survey in August 2003 that found that 49 percent of Canadians backed assisted suicide while 37 percent opposed it.

That’s down from a 1997 poll taken shortly after Robert Latimer was sentenced for killing his disabled 12-year-old daughter, Tracy, found 70 percent of Canadians said assisted suicide was allowable.

"Canadians don’t want to terminate the sick and disabled, they want to care for them," said Dr. Will Johnston of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

"There is no consensus about so-called mercy-killing." Johnston stated. "But there is definitely a public consensus for better palliative care services to relieve the suffering of dying persons. That’s where we should be focusing our attention instead of frightening sick and disabled Canadians with proposals to eliminate them."