Monday, May 2, 2016

Canadian parliamentary debate: Without amendment, Bill C-14 "will protect no one."

Garnett Genuis, MP
Mr. Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park ­Fort Saskatchewan, CPC) . . .

I want to be clear that I do not believe in an all-or-nothing approach. Many of my colleagues and I who have broad philosophical concerns about what is happening here are still willing to vote in favour of legislation that does not re-criminalize euthanasia, if it advances positively in the direction of saving some lives, especially minimizing the risk to vulnerable persons. However, this legislation does not contain meaningful safeguards. Without amendment, it will protect no one.

We know that this law has written exceptions. However, it has exceptions to the exceptions; and may I say it has exceptions to the exceptions that are not at all exceptional?

This legislation has a requirement for the provision of written consent. However, if people cannot provide written consent, someone else can do it on their behalf.

This legislation prescribes a waiting period. However, the waiting period does not apply in the event of possible imminent death or loss of capacity.

There is so much ambiguity here.

The government has said that mental illness is excluded. However, in section 241.2(2) the legislation clearly states that physical or psychological suffering qualifies a person to seek premature death.

The legislation says that death must be “reasonably foreseeable”. May I say that death is reasonably foreseeable for all of us? It is those who think that death is not reasonably foreseeable who probably need the medical attention. Why not put in the word “terminal”? When I was learning to drive, my mother thought that death was “reasonably foreseeable” every time we got into the car. That is no criterion.

There is a requirement that two physicians sign off. However, given the huge ambiguities, obviously doctors are likely to have a wide range of interpretations of the rules. The estimates are that there are 77,000 physicians in this country, and the likely practice of doctor-shopping will ensure that people who think they meet the wooly and ambiguous criteria can somewhere find two physicians.

The member for Victoria said earlier today that this is something doctors do every day. No, it is not. Doctors do not take lives every day. This is fundamentally different from the normal practice of medicine. When we have so many different doctors and opinions to choose from, these are not effective safeguards.

 Given these five comically ridiculous exceptions to the exceptions, there is no doubt that detailed provincial legislation or regulation will be required in every case. Therefore, it is not at all clear to me what this law is supposed to accomplish.

Further, there are two key areas where the prevailing rules under this law would leave us demonstrably worse off than the Carter ruling alone.

First, there is a terrifying clause in this bill, which states that if someone kills someone else but can demonstrate, at least beyond a reasonable doubt, that he or she had a reasonable but mistaken belief that the criteria applied then that person cannot be penalized. We can find that at 241(6). Therefore, we can kill someone who did not consent and escape prosecution on the basis of reasonable but mistaken belief. Whatever is done, I implore the government to take this very dangerous section out. This is going even beyond the Belgian model.

Second, this legislation provides no protection for conscience rights, despite the court's clear statement that nothing in this decision required particular health care practitioners to be involved, and despite the clear assurance of the Canadian Medical Association that access does not require taking away section 2 conscience rights.

This legislation constitutes a perfect storm. Ambiguous criteria, no advance legal review, no conscience protection, and allowances for doctor-shopping are not meaningful safeguards at all. The bill leaves patients, seniors, the sick, and the disabled vulnerable to error and systemic abuse. We have seen this in Belgium before. I have quoted the studies during questions and comments. We do not want to go down this road in Canada at all. . . .