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OTTAWA, February 26, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Four Conservative members of the special committee on assisted suicide and euthanasia have sharply denounced its final report, stating that the committee’s recommendations not only violate the Charter rights of physicians, but arguably also those of vulnerable Canadians.
“The regime recommended in the committee’s main report falls far short [emphasis in original] of what is necessary to protect vulnerable Canadians and the Charter protected conscience rights of health professionals,” the MPs wrote in a dissenting opinion appended to the committee’s report, which was tabled in Parliament on Thursday.
Such a regime “if challenged, would almost certainly be found to violate the Charter,” wrote Mark Warawa (Langley-Aldergrove, BC), Michael Cooper (St. Albert-Edmonton, AB), Gerard Deltell (Louis-St Laurent, PQ) and Harold Albrecht (Kitcherner-Consestoga, ON).
“There is little sense in replacing a law that was found to violate the Charter in one way with a law that violates the Charter in another way.”
The four were particularly critical of the committee’s recommendation that doctors who object to killing their patients must give those patients an “effective referral.”
That “unnecessary” directive “infringes on the Charter rights of physicians,” they wrote, adding that “Canada would be the first jurisdiction in the world to require an effective referral regime.”
The joint committee of five senators and 11 MPs was tasked with providing the Liberal government a framework for a new law governing assisted suicide and euthanasia. The Supreme Court struck down the current law as unconstitutional in its February 2015 Carter decision, which takes effect June 6.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Thursday that cabinet will move “very quickly” to examine the committee’s 21 recommendations, reported iPolitics. “We’re working tremendously hard to meet the deadline of June 6th.”
But the four dissenting committee members charge that some of the report’s recommendations go far beyond the scope of the Carter ruling, and others not far enough.
When the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on February 6, 2015 that physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia were rights protected by the Charter, the nine justices cautioned that there were “those who might be at risk in a permissive regime” but that the risk could be managed by a “carefully designed and monitored system of safeguards.”
The committee, which heard from 61 witnesses and received over 100 written briefs, has suggested a final scheme that “fails to adhere” to the “reasonably straightforward roadmap” the Court gave Parliament to follow in the Carter decision, wrote the four MPs.
They rejected the committee’s recommendation that children, or “mature minors,” be eligible for assisted suicide and euthanasia “at a future date.” The Carter ruling explicitly states “competent adult persons” be eligible to be killed by medical means, they wrote.
And “shockingly,” the committee’s proposals offer no protection for people with mental illness, they stated.
Nowhere does the report recommend that “patients diagnosed with an underlying mental health challenge” undergo a psychiatric assessment of their capacity to consent to assisted suicide or euthanasia.
People who suffer from severe depression will be at a particularly high risk if these recommendations become law, warned MP Albrecht. “I have spent a lot of time and invested a lot of energy in initiatives that are trying to prevent suicide and to work with those who are facing mental challenges,” he stated at a news conference the four MPs held Thursday on Parliament Hill, reported iPolitics.
“There are many people living today who have gone through a severe depression who, if this model is adopted, could in fact find themselves in a situation where they’ve taken a permanent solution — unfortunately, a tragic, permanent solution — to what was in fact a temporary problem.”
The Tory MPs also criticized the committee’s recommendation of advance directives, noting that this, too, falls outside the scope of the Carter decision. Advance directives are “extremely complicated,” and the Canadian Medical Association, among other witnesses, advised against such measures.
And the four faulted the committee for not emphasizing the need for palliative care, noting that “a genuinely autonomous choice” is not possible for patients who are not offered palliative care: “They will see their choice as only intolerable suffering or PAD [physician-assisted death].”
See LifeSiteNews' other coverage on the government panel report: