Leaked Internal Memo to MPs Reveals Justice Minister Opposes Assisted Suicide Bill

OTTAWA, October 14, 2005 ( - An internal memo sent to Liberal MPs yesterday from Justice Minister Irwin Cotler notes that he does not support Bill C-407, a bill which seeks to legalize assisted suicide in Canada. The memo was leaked to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) which provided a copy to The Cotler memo presents three main arguments against the bill.

First, it says that the “Bill has far-reaching implications in the manner in which it alters the current state of the law and in the way it will impact on medical ethics and practice.” Commenting on the point, EPC Executive Director Alex Schadenberg told, “Perhaps Minister Cotler is aware of the threat this sort of legislation holds for a society that seeks to be compassionate toward the vulnerable. This position also raises the point of improving the provision of palliative care services, a dire necessity in Canada.”

Second, the memo acknowledges that C-407 touches issues of life and death, as well as faith issues that will be extremely controversial in Canada.

Finally, the memorandum cautions: “In order to guard against the potential to move towards what is often described as the ‘slippery slope’ in facilitating the unwanted death of elderly, physically or mentally vulnerable persons, a very stringent regime would have to introduced [sic], and Bill C-407 falls short of accomplishing this.” It continues “Bill C-407 lacks an appropriate mechanism to guard against abuses [and] does not require detailed reporting or establish a committee to review reports as is found in comparable legislation in Oregon, the Netherlands and Belgium, not does the Bill does [sic] address how to deal with cases of abuse, e.g. by creating a specific offence.”

Schadenberg warns however, “despite the Minister’s decision not to support Bill C-407, it seems clear from the memorandum that Mr. Cotler would be interested in a more comprehensively drafted bill legalizing assisted suicide - one that takes into consideration the issues he raises.”

The memo appreciates the fact that many Canadians support the notion of assisted suicide in principle, especially when it comes to physical suffering for the terminally ill. In addition, Cotler has been quoted as being interested in reviving the discussion in Canada concerning assisted suicide.

“All of these statements made by the Justice Minister should be of grave concern to Canadians who believe in caring for vulnerable people, not killing them,” says Schadenberg.“There is little doubt that a motion or new legislation concerning euthanasia or assisted suicide will be introduced in Parliament at the earliest opportunity. Whether that will be at the behest of this government or the next one remains to be seen.”

The EPC is celebrating the Minister’s opposition but only as a temporary victory.“We need to make sure that Bill C-407 is roundly defeated and we need to continue to convince members of parliament that due to human nature, and the needs of vulnerable persons, the only effective safeguard to protect vulnerable Canadians is keeping euthanasia and assisted suicide a crime, while providing excellent hospice/palliative care and support for all Canadians,” concludes Schadenberg.


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