OTTAWA (CCN) — The federal government’s Bill C-14 legalizing “medical assistance in dying” has come under fire from anti-euthanasia groups who call the bill “dangerous.”
Though Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the government tried to balance the rights of those seeking a medically assisted death with the protection of vulnerable persons through “robust” safeguards, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director Alex Schadeberg said they are not effective.
“The bill requires approval for euthanasia or assisted suicide be done by two independent physicians or nurse practitioners, without requiring before the death oversight from an independent third party,” he said. “The bill permits the doctor or nurse practitioner who approve the act to also be the person who does the act and reports the act. Once the person is dead, it is too late to find out that the person was incompetent or coerced.”
He noted the bill provides legal immunity for anyone who might help someone administer a lethal substance that has been prescribed under the provisions of the law. “This bill provides perfect cover for murder.”
Campaign Life Coalition is urging members of Parliament to vote “no” on the bill, risking a legal vacuum similar to that regarding abortion if the bill fails to pass before June 6, the deadline when the Supreme Court of Canada’s Carter decision, that struck down sections of the Criminal Code regarding assisted suicide, comes into effect. Instead, Campaign Life Coalition is calling on the government to invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution to override the Supreme Court’s decision for five years.
“Campaign Life Coalition opposes any law that allows for a person to kill another person.” said Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition. “This bill is deceitful and dangerous and will put at risk the lives of many vulnerable Canadians regardless of the safeguards put forward.”
“By legalizing assisted suicide, the message that Parliament will send out to Canadians, especially young Canadians, is that suicide can be a lawful solution to your suffering,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer for CLC. “In every other jurisdiction such as Belgium and the Netherlands where assisted suicide was made legal, the law has been abused and this too will happen in Canada.”
“This bill is seriously deficient,” explains Dr. Will Johnston, president of Canadian Physicians for Life. “The federal government is at risk of botching its last chance at harm reduction in the problems of assisted suicide and euthanasia. There is no necessary waiting period. You don’t have to be dying, your death just has to be ‘foreseeable’ — a term which is not defined in the bill. Further, an heir to your will can make a written request on your behalf.”
“This bill does nothing to preserve a safe space for those patients who want to remain untouched by assisted suicide and euthanasia,” states Johnston.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and Canadian Physicians for Life also noted the lack of express protection for conscience rights of physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists in the bill.
“The bill provides no protection for conscientious objectors. In fact it compels them to be part of the chain of events leading up to a person’s death,” said Albertos Polizogopoulos, a constitutional lawyer who represents Canadian Physicians for Life. “Absent explicit protections for health practitioners’ conscience rights, the bill violates their Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms right to freedom of conscience.”
Though the preamble of the bill mentions conscience rights, Health Minister Jane Philpott said the provinces and territories as well as the governing bodies for health professionals such as the physicians’ colleges will determine whether they will be forced to refer or otherwise participate in the assisted death regime.
The provinces and territories will also determine whether publicly funded religiously based health care institutions will be forced to administer assisted death on their premises.