Recently, I had the opportunity to rise in the House of Commons and speak to the Liberal Government’s Bill C-7: Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID).
I was a member of the Justice Committee when the first bill (C-14) was brought forward and opened the door to physician-assisted death in Canada. I am proud to say I voted against it.
I believe in the sanctity of life. All life, from conception right through to natural death, has value, worth, and purpose.
A pastor friend of mine told me a story that happened just prior to the passing of Bill C-14 in 2016. A woman the pastor knew who had battled Stage IV cancer for ten years—savouring every moment of that time with her grandbabies and family—was told by one of her care workers, “I bet you cannot wait for the assisted-suicide bill to pass.” The pastor recalled the desperation in her tears when she called to recount her story, asking, “Has my life only become a burden to society?”
I have heard many such stories from Canadians. People who despite physical adversity have refused to give up, only to have their hopes dimmed by repeated offers for MAID.
As the House now considers an expansion of MAID, I think it remains vitally important that the worth of every person is reaffirmed and underscored.
It must be our priority to remind every Canadian that they have value regardless of their age. They have value regardless of their ability. Their dignity is not determined by their suffering or by their level of autonomy. It is intrinsic. It is inherent. Their lives are worth living.
MAID was previously sold as an option only when death was imminent, or reasonably foreseeable. This new bill goes well beyond that.
This new bill intends to offer assisted dying to individuals who are not dying, whose lives are still viable.
This raises a slough of legal and moral questions.
A joint statement by 140 lawyers explains that singling out non-life-threatening illness and disability as eligibility criteria for assisted death undermines Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As a group of physicians suggested recently in the National Post “increasing health care personnel, improving our quality of care, enhancing our palliative care options and ensuring quicker, [broader] access to psychiatric care would all be more advisable. Instead, we are “fast-tracking death on demand and dismantling the…[earlier] safeguards that were put in place to protect the vulnerable.”
Moreover, every choice we make as a society has a ripple effect.
When vulnerable people start feeling like they are only a burden to society because of our actions, we need to consider what kind of culture we are creating.
Our job as parliamentarians is to factor in the rights of everyone—including the conscience rights of health care providers— and including the most vulnerable of our citizens.