Monday, April 25, 2016
John Barlow MP column April 2016 - Doctor Assisted Dying
Doctor Assisted Dying is one of the most important and difficult issues I have had to address during my time as a Member of Parliament.
I have looked to the residents of Foothills for input and direction in dealing with a highly complex and deeply sensitive issue. It was clear at the open houses and the correspondence that I have received, this is an important issue for Foothills residents.
In February 2015, the Supreme Court found the existing legislation, which did not allow physician assisted suicide or euthanasia in Canada, to be in contravention of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In its decision, the Supreme Court directed Parliament to draft legislation allowing a competent adult to request medical assistance in dying.
A Special Joint Committee studied the issue and in March 2016 presented a report to the House of Commons including 21 recommendations, which were to form the framework of the legislation.
The Conservative members of the committee drafted a dissenting report outlining concerns with the recommendations. I shared their concerns as the recommendations went far beyond the directive from the Supreme Court.
For example, the Special Joint Committee recommended mature minors and people with mental illness should qualify for doctor assisted dying; it did not protect a physican’s right to a decision on conscience; and there were concerns with the risks around advanced directives.
Although the vast majority of Canadians support doctor assisted dying, I was concerned many did not fully comprehend the recommendations and what could be included in the legislation.
As a result, I held four open houses throughout the riding for you to come to learn more about the study, ask questions, and provide your feedback.
The open houses were very well attended and an overwhelming number of participants also voiced concern with some of the elements of the recommendations.
Conservative members shared the concerns we have heard from our constituents with the Liberal minister. Our priority was to ensure legislation included safeguards for the most vulnerable, as well as protection for the conscience rights of physicians and allied health professionals.
It was a relief to see the Liberal government listened to Canadians.
In April, they tabled the legislation and many of the issues we raised were addressed including removing minors and advanced directives and tightening the safeguards for those suffering with mental illness.
The initial direction of the legislation on Doctor Assisted Dying was worrisome, but steps have been taken to address some of the concerns Foothills residents raised. However, there are still issues and ambiguity with the legislation, including clarity on assessing those with psychological issues, medical consent and protection for the conscience rights of physicians.
I am proud to say Conservative MPs will have the freedom to examine this legislation, determine whether it includes sufficient safeguards, speak with our constituents and make our decisions on whether or not to support the bill on behalf of our constituents through a free vote on the legislation.
However, before making that vote, I would like to hear from you. Again, it is clear this is an important issue for Canadians and I encourage you to learn more about the nuances of the bill and contact my office with questions or concerns. The bill can be found by searching C-14 at www.parl.gc.ca (http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Mode=1&DocId=8183660&Language=E).