Canadian MP introduces assisted-suicide bill

A Member of Parliament has introduced a private member’s bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in Canada.

Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde introduced bill C-407 for first reading June 15.

The bill would protect a person from being charged with homicide for assisting in the suicide of someone who is aged 18 and older, who is terminally ill or who continues to “experience severe physical or mental pain without any prospect of relief” after receiving or refusing treatment, and who has expressed their wish to die.

Lalonde says parliamentarians have a "moral obligation" to respect others' wishes to die, reported the Ottawa Sun. "The choice to die with dignity should be a right," she told the paper.

Currently, Section 14 of the Criminal Code outlaws assisted suicide. The law would require the person seeking help in dying to make two requests more than 10 days apart “expressly stating” his or her “free and informed wish to die.” The person who assists in a suicide must be a medical practitioner or “assisted by a medical practitioner."

The person requesting to die must “while appearing to be lucid, [designate] in writing, before two witnesses with no personal interest in the death of the person, another person to act in his or her name with respect to the person who aids him or her to die.”

The person who assists in the suicide would be required to receive confirmation of the diagnosis from two medical practitioners. If this person were a medical practitioner, then confirmation would be needed from just one other medical practitioner.

Private member's bills rarely become law. However, Parliament did pass NDP MP Svend Robinson’s private member’s bill, Bill C-250. Many religious groups consider the anti-hate bill, which includes homosexuality under Canada’s anti-hate legislation, a muzzle law.

Earlier this year, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler had suggested that Parliament revisit Canada’s laws on assisted suicide.

"Parliament is the best venue for a debate that must balance the issue of dying with dignity with concerns from the disabled," he told the Ottawa Sun in reaction to Lalonde’s bill.

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