Canadian Senate sends Bill C-14 back to parliament with amendments, the worst parts of the bill remain intact

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Canada's Senate passed Bill C-14, with its amendments, by a 64 to 12 vote, and therefore sent the bill back to parliament for acceptance or amendments.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition argues that Bill C-14 must be amended or defeated.

Bill C-14 will now go back to parliament where they will either accept the Senate amendments or send the bill back to the Senate. 

The Senate made seven amendments to Bill C-14. The only amendment to receive media attention is the amendment that replaces that a person's "death must be reasonably foreseeable" with a person having a "grievous and irremediable medical condition and after the condition has begun to cause enduring suffering that is intolerable to the person"

CBC news reported that the six other amendments are:

1. requiring a person to give informed consent to receive MAiD after having had a palliative care consultation, and after having been informed of treatment, technology and support options available to relieve suffering.2. a provision that prohibits a beneficiary from assisting a persons assisted death or signing the request for assisted death.3. require the federal minister of health to make regulations on the provision and collection of information for the purpose of monitoring MAiD and on the use and disposal of that information, and the information on death certificates.4. requiring a two-year deadline for independent reports on assisted dying.5. An amendment to the language of the bill to make the French and English versions consistent.6. An amendment to fix a drafting error in the bill.

The amendment that prohibits beneficiaries from assisting a death underscores the most grievous problems with Bill C-14, that being the lack of effective oversight of the law and the fact that the bill enables anyone to participate in acts of euthanasia or assisted suicide.

The most grievous sections of the bill have not been amended:

1. Bill C-14 allows 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.

I cannot understand why people remain so blind about the implications of the language of the bill. Bill C-14 remains the most wide-open bill in the world. It is even worse than the Belgian law. 

Recent studies from Belgium indicate that more than 1000 assisted deaths occur without request each year.

Bill C-14 must be amended or defeated.

Senator Betty Unger: I cannot support (Bill C-14) euthanasia and assisted suicide

This speech was delivered by Senator Betty Unger in Canada's Senate and posted on her website on June 15, 2016

"I do not know what is more alarming:
The fact that we are on the wrong road,
or the fact that we do not recognize it
and that so many are cheering"

Senator Betty Unger
Speaking to Bill C-14

 Senator Betty Unger

 Senator Betty Unger

Honourable Senators, I stand here today as but one voice in this Chamber.

My voice is not as loud or as strong as others in this House.

Yet behind me stand many, by the thousands, who wish their voices could be heard.

I am honoured to be speaking on their behalf.

And today, I hope you do not just hear my voice, but the sound of their voices as well.

These are the many people who weep that Canada’s moral fabric is being destroyed: Who beg us not to underestimate the harm that will follow when our hitherto and dearly held values are being shredded.

These are the elderly and the vulnerable: Who have now been burdened with new fears about visiting their doctor or being admitted to the hospital.

I propose to you that if this legislation was for a clear moral good there would be no need for debate.

It would be resoundingly supported not only in these halls, but in the halls of our nation.

Yet we do not hear such a sound, fellow Senators.

We hear the sound of division, of anger, of disagreement, and of fear.

I do not know which is more alarming:

The fact that we are on the wrong road, or the fact that we do not recognize it and that so many are cheering.

A fundamental tenant is, “Do not kill the innocent. Life is sacred.”

Yet in considering this legislation we have dismissed so many safeguards that the innocent are certain to be killed.

Why we cannot see it, I do not know.

Ignoring the lessons of history we elevate the right of the individual over the good of society.

Canada has had its democratic values uprooted: While in theory, “Parliament is Supreme”, this has become blatantly false.

The Supreme Court has supplanted our elected Parliamentarians by foisting “Judge-made law” on Canadians.

And although Parliaments across the nation could invoke the notwithstanding clause to ensure that this decision receives its proper deliberation, they seem unprepared to do so.

Where did we go so wrong, and when will we admit that the Supreme Court has gone too far?

What will it take? On what will they rule next?

Is there no situation under which the parliaments of Canada would be prepared to exercise their right under the Charter and invoke the notwithstanding clause?

I, for one, am not holding my breath, and I believe we are wrong, my friends. This story does not end well.

My only hope is that more and more Canadians are beginning to realize that something is terribly wrong and are rejecting the benign-sounding Medical Assistance in Dying Bill C-14.

Regrettably, far too few parliamentarians are amongst them.

I cannot support this legislation.

I don’t think this has been our finest hour: politics were ever-present. But may the gracious God who gave us life have mercy on us when He takes it in the end.

Advanced Request For Euthanasia?

This article was written by Dr Catherine Ferrier and published on June 10, 2016 by impact ethics in Canadian BioethicsDeath & Assisted DyingLaw & PolicyMental Health

Catherine Ferrier a physician in the Division of Geriatric Medicine of the McGill University Health Centre, and is the president of the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia.

The June 6 deadline for legislation in response to the Carter judgment has come and gone, and our government has yet to adopt a law regulating medical assistance in dying. Too few of us have any idea what we are rushing into.

In the Carter decision the Supreme Court judges stated that the risks associated with physician-assisted death can be limited through a carefully designed and monitored system of safeguards. In contrast, the pressure is on to offer death as a solution for all forms of suffering, available to virtually everyone, including those who fear future suffering or disability.

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs wants Bill C-14 amended to include the recommendation of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, “That the permission to use advance requests for medical assistance in dying be allowed any time after one is diagnosed with a condition that is reasonably likely to cause loss of competence or after a diagnosis of a grievous or irremediable condition but before the suffering becomes intolerable….”

I have spent the last 30 years diagnosing, treating, and caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It takes no special insight to realize that they are the principal intended “beneficiaries” of this recommendation.

Link to the full article

Australian Assisted Dying Report - A sugar coated poison pill

“vulnerable people—the elderly, lonely, sick or distressed—would feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to request early death” House of Lords.
Paul Russell

Paul Russell

By Paul Russell

The Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Victorian Parliament handed down its Report into End-of-Life choices in Victoria today.

The extensive report makes some valuable comments and recommendations in respect to improvement in palliative care.

It acknowledges that access to palliative care is patchy, is overburdened and needs improvement. In a country rated recently as second in an international table for end-of-life care, it still remains that the availability of such care is more closely related to postcode than it is to need.

The committee heard from many individuals whose family members had passed away in circumstances that were clearly far from what all Victorians would want and certainly far from best practice. The committee seems to take it as read that such cases are compelling proof that Victoria needs a regimen of ‘assisted dying’ – euthanasia or assisted suicide. Few, I contend, are that clear.

While family members submitting their stories to the committee often (but note: not always) called for legislative change, the submissions and stories may well have been evidence of poor care, lack of care options or, indeed, refusal of good care options; we simply do not know. For the committee to seem so easily to have accepted that poor deaths require the State of Victoria to help people to suicide is a travesty as much as it is the potential abandonment of people in great need.

Certainly, the admission that palliative care is still not able to meet the needs of Victorians is an important one and we welcome all policy and planning decisions that bridge the gap between need and availability. Sadly, however, the committee seems intent that, for those who cannot access such care, being made dead is an option. This is a failure of the committee’s stated aims to improve choice; suicide in such circumstances is no choice at all.

Link to the full article

Will Johnston: The case against physician-assisted dying

This article was published by the CanadianHealthcareNetwork.ca on June 1, 2016

Discussed: The 'wedge' cases, the language of the debate, the moral culpability of the doctor, and the question of pure autonomy
Dr Will Johnston

Dr Will Johnston

By Tristan Bronca.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition was officially founded in 1998 in response to rising public support for physician-assisted dying. It’s made up of about 2,000 donors—both members and organizations—who began to come together in about 1993 during the Sue Rodriguez case. One of those members is Dr. Will Johnston.

Now the chair of the B.C. chapter of the coalition, the family physician took a strong stance against euthanasia about 22 years ago, when he began writing about it and speaking to high school students and church groups. He also testified opposite euthanasia advocates in the Carter case, which led to the legalization of medically assisted death in Canada. Dr. Johnston spoke with the Medical Post about his concerns with the legislation recently passed through the house of commons, the laws around the world, and why he feels Canada is about to make a dangerous mistake.

Q: Explain the impetus for a coalition of bodies who are opposed to physician-assisted dying.

The bodies that are involved in the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition might not agree on any other issue but they share in common a sense of the huge societal mistake that is being made in euthanasia and assisted suicide. We realize that there is some strength in numbers. Obviously not enough strength to stop the freight train that ended with the Supreme Court being unanimous in its decision—which I think is a troubling sign of the shallowness of the Supreme Court’s reasoning—but nonetheless more power than we would have as individual activists.

Q: Which elements of the proposed federal legislation do you personally find most troubling?

The legislation doesn’t yet allow the euthanasia of children, psychiatric patients, or mentally incapable patients long after they consent, but the preamble to the legislation promises to explore those areas further, which is deeply troubling.

Link to the full article

Bill C-14 needs to be amended or defeated

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

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

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

I recognize that conscience protection language has improved and some of the language of the bill was improved, but the most grievous sections of Bill C-14 were not amended. 

The House of Commons passed Bill C-14 with a 186 to 137 vote, now the Senate of Canada will begin to debate Bill C-14. The Senate has the power to amend the bill and/or defeat the bill.

For those who are concerned that Bill C-14 will not be passed by June 6, 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.

If this bill passes, in its current form, the language of Bill C-14 will lead to significant growth of euthanasia. 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.

Link to the full article

Mel Arnold MP opposes euthanasia Bill C-14 based on the unclear language of the bill

Alex Schadenberg, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On Wednesday May 4, I had the opportunity of speaking to a group of 80 people in Vernon BC, as part of a BC speaking tour. 

Mel Arnold MP

Mel Arnold MP

An article published in the Vernon Morning Star reported that the local member of parliament, Mel Arnold, voted against Bill C-14 based on the response from his constituents and the unclear language in the bill. The Morning Star reported Arnold to have stated:

“Legislation of this gravity must be precise in the conditions and safeguards it sets out leaving no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation,” 
“We need to fully consider all the implications of what is being presented in the bill,”

The Morning Star commented on the media release sent out after my presentation: 

Schadenberg says Bill C-14 fails to protect the vulnerable. 
“When signing a request for euthanasia, the bill requires that a medical or nurse practitioner to only: be satisfied that the request was signed and dated by the person, which is a pretty minimal standard,” 
When the person is unable to sign the request, the bill allows anyone to sign the request. Section 4 states: anyone can sign the request so long as they are at least 18 years of age and who understands the nature of the request. That’s a frightening thought.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is urging our supporters to write/contact Members of Parliament and Senators concerning Bill C-14. The language employed by Bill C-14 is imprecise and dangerous.