By Alex Schadenberg Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
The House of Commons passed Bill C-14, the government bill to “regulate” euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, on a 186 to 137 vote. Canada’s Senate will begin to debate Bill C-14. The Senate has the power to amend and/or defeat the bill.
For those who are concerned that Bill C-14 will not be passed by June 6, the date imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada following its decision overturning Canada’s assisted suicide law, stop worrying; it will definitely not become law by June 6. Therefore the approach needs to be to amend Bill C-14 in the Senate, and, if it is not adequately amended, to defeat the bill.
I appreciate the amendments to Bill C-14, “An act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying” made by the House of Commons
I recognize that conscience protection language has improved and some of the language of the bill was improved. That said, the most grievous sections of Bill C-14 were not amended.
If this bill passes, in its current form, the language of Bill C-14 will lead to significant growth of euthanasia and assisted suicide. There will be many stories that people will refer to as a “slippery slope.” Let me tell you now, these stories will not be the result of a “slippery slope” but rather they will be based on the fact that the language of Bill C-14 allowed these acts to occur.
When I stated that the most grievous sections of the bill have not been amended, here is what I meant:
1. Bill C-14 continues to allow anyone to cause death by euthanasia or assisted suicide.
• Bill C-14 – Section 227(2) states: No person is a party to culpable homicide if they do anything for the purpose of aiding a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to provide a person with medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.2.
• Bill C-14 – Section 241(3) states: No person is a party to an offence under paragraph (1)(b) if they do anything for the purpose of aiding a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to provide a person with medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.2.
• Bill C-14 – Section 241(5) states: No person commits an offence under paragraph (1)(b) if they do anything, at another person’s explicit request, for the purpose of aiding that other person to self-administer a substance that has been prescribed for that other person as part of the provision of medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.2.
No jurisdiction in the world offers legal immunity to anyone who does anything for the purposes of assisted dying. These sections must be struck from the bill.
2. Bill C-14 continues to provide medical practitioners or nurse practitioners total immunity for decisions or acts that contravene Bill C-14.
• Section 241.3 states: Before a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner provides a person with medical assistance in dying, the medical or nurse practitioner must: (a) be of the opinion that the person meets all of the criteria set out in subsection (1);
• Section 227(3) states: For greater certainty, the exemption set out in subsection (1) or (2) applies even if the person invoking it has a reasonable but mistaken belief about any fact that is an element of the exemption.
Sections 241.3(a) and 227(3) make it impossible to penalize medical or nurse practitioners for approving or doing an assisted death that contravenes the law, since the bill only requires them to: “be of the opinion” that the person meets all of the criteria of the law. This is the lowest possible standard. Further to that, Bill C-14 provides no effective oversight of the law.
If the person who died was incompetent, the medical or nurse practitioner would only need to state that he/she was “of the opinion” that the person was competent.
The Supreme Court of Canada in its February 6, 2015 Carter decision approved assisted death based on: “a competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life.”
Section 241.3(a), does not assure that the person is competent or clearly consents to the termination of life. Therefore Bill C-14 does not respect the language of Carter. Unless Section 241.3(a) is amended to ensure that the person meets all of the criteria set out in subsection (1), Bill C-14 will be struck down by a future court decision.
Bill C-14, in its current form, must be defeated.
Editor’s note. This appeared on the webpage of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.