Introduction of Physician-Assisted Dying Legislation

Ottawa, April 14, 2016 – Rachael Harder, the Member of Parliament for Lethbridge and the Official Opposition’s Critic for Persons with a Disability and Deputy Critic for Health released the following statement on the Liberal introduction of legislation to legalize physician-assisted dying:

I was pleased to see that many of the safeguards recommended by our Conservative Caucus were included in this legislation, including the exclusion of minors, stringent safeguards to protect those with underlying mental health challenges and the recognition of the risks involved with advanced directives. We are pleased that these recommendations have been included in the Bill.
The Prime Minister chose to distance himself from the reckless approach outlined by Liberal MPs and Senators on the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying and that is a good thing for vulnerable Canadians. There is some ambiguity in how the various criteria will work and how medical professionals will interpret this Bill, but it is a vast improvement over the approach recommended by the Joint Committee.

There is one issue that was not adequately addressed by this legislation which I believe to be a critical flaw. There is no prior-review of non-medical motivating factors prior to physician-assisted dying being performed. During my conversations with persons with disabilities from across the country I have listened to many stories where isolation, inability to access public spaces, significant poverty and a lack of palliative care leave people feeling discouraged and deprived of hope. Without a prior-review of these non-medical factors persons with a disability, seniors and other vulnerable Canadians could be induced to request assisted dying when minor interventions could dramatically improve their quality of life. 

Without access to strong palliative care patients cannot make a fully informed decision on accessing assisted dying. In the last election the Liberals committed to spend $3 billion on improving palliative care. The Liberals did not include this money in this year’s budget and have delayed implementation of this promise until a new Health Accord is signed with the provinces and territories. It is disappointing that the Liberals have delayed this funding so that assisted dying will be readily available in Canada before the lack of palliative care is addressed.”

The Bill was presented in the house today. The deadline from the Supreme Court is June 6th. The Bill will follow the normal path for legislation, which includes in-depth study by the Justice Committee with the ability to amend the Bill, before it is returned to the House of Commons for a final vote.