Canadian Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide Could Come After Next Elections

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 14, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canadian Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide Could Come After Next Elections Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 14
, 2008

Ottawa, Canada ( — Leading opponents of euthanasia in Canada are concerned that another bill to attempt to legalize assisted suicide could come after the next national elections. They worry that the case of Robert Latimer, the man who killed his disabled daughter and was recently paroled from prison, could prompt another attempt.

Canada previously dealt with assisted suicide when the Supreme Court of Canada issued a 5-4 ruling in the Rodriguez case preventing Sue Rodriguez from having a physician kill her.

Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde put forward the last bill to attempt to legalize the practice that did not put Canada in league with European nations like the Netherlands and Belgium.

Now, there’s word that lawmakers in the Canadian Parliament are considering another bill and Euthanasia Prevention Coalition director Alex Schadenberg told the Canadian Catholic News he thinks it could come after the next elections.

CBC Radio interviewed Jocelyn Downie of Dalhousie University earlier this month where the possibility of a new assisted suicide bill came up.

Schadenberg told CCN he wouldn’t be surprised if Latimer ends up walking the halls of Parliament trying to win over MPs to his view that its okay to kill disabled people when society views their quality of life as too poor.

"His idea is a direct threat to other people," Schadenberg said.

CCN also interviewed Margaret Somerville, the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law.

She says the confusion in the debate surrounding the differences between assisted suicide, euthanasia and the way Latimer killed his daughter is confusing the Canadian people.

This confusion can be "very favorable to the pro-euthanasia side," she said.

The problem also is that the pro-euthanasia side initially opposed what Latimer did but has expanded to include the so-called mercy killing though he murdered his daughter.

"We know that familiarity inhibits our moral intuition, and so now it seems as though they are quite happy to say we should be nice to Mr. Latimer because it was just mercy and compassion," she said. "Obviously what they’re saying is that’s an ethical justification for what he did and it should be a legal justification."

The outcome of what happens in Canada could also be affected by the American debate.

Voters in Washington state may decided the falls on whether or not to make it the second state after Oregon to legalize assisted suicide. A victory could motivate some Canadian MPs to push for a new bill.