Canadian parliamentarians push for renewed debate on assisted suicide bill

Canadian parliamentarians push for renewed debate on assisted suicide bill

.- Some Canadian parliamentarians are pushing for a debate in the House of Commons on the legalization of assisted suicide. A private member’s bill was introduced by Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde last year, but it died on the table when the federal elections were called.

Members of Parliament who support assisted suicide would like the bill to be reconsidered and this week Lalonde said she is ready to present a revised version of her bill, originally tabled as bill C-407, in the next session, reported the Winnipeg Sun.

Mike Storeshaw, communications director for Justice Minister Vic Toews, told the Sun that the Harper government is not looking to debate the issue. However, should the bill advance in the House, the Harper government would likely call a free vote, he said.

The original bill drew sharp criticism from the Canadian Bishops.  The Bishops said, in a statement, that assisited suicide is, “founded on an erroneous understanding of compassion and of freedom,” and that such practices are, “an extremely serious threat that concerns all citizens but especially the most vulnerable.”  

The passage of such a bill, the Bishops said, “or any proposal encouraging euthanasia and assisted suicide would be a major social failure.”

Despite the eagerness of some parliamentarians to debate the issue, polls show that support for assisted suicide in Canada has declined since 1997.

Dr. Joseph Ayoub, an oncologist who also teaches medical ethics at the University of Montreal, told the Sun that assisted suicide should remain illegal because it denies respect for human life.

Ayoub said legalizing assisted suicide would lead to a very slippery slope. "First you start with patients with severe disease, like cancer, at the end of their life, then you come to disabled people, then you come to handicapped children and old people in homes," he was quoted as saying.

But Don Babey, executive director of the pro-euthanasia Dying With Dignity, says assisted suicide is already happening in Canada and doctors should be given “an adequate mechanism … to do it legally.” He pointed to a report which indicates 15 percent of Manitoba doctors have terminated the lives of sick patients with drugs.

Government documents, obtained by the Sun, indicate a concern that cases of involuntary euthanasia are occurring more frequently. The documents say it is difficult to prosecute such cases and to prove that a doctor intended take a patient's life rather than to lessen pain with medication.

Canadian law currently provides for a maximum of 14 years in prison for assisted suicide. The Criminal Code treats euthanasia (the death of a patient without consent) as murder.

For more on the campaign against assisted suicide, go to:

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