On Oct. 2, Bill C-384, Francine Lalonde’s private member’s bill to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, received its first hour of debate. The bill was introduced on May 13 by the Bloc Québécois MP, in her third attempt to get such legislation passed in Parliament. Two previous attempts were scuttled when an election was called.
The first hour of debate saw eight MPs rise to speak on the issue. Two were in favour – Bloc MPs Lalonde and Serge Cardin (Sherbrooke). Six were opposed – David Anderson (C, Cypress Hills – Grasslands), John McKay (L, Scarborough – Guildwood), Jacques Gourde (C, Lotbinière – Chutes-de-la-Chaudière), Marlene Jennings (L, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce – Lachine), Joe Comartin (NDP, Windsor – Tecumseh) and Paul Szabo (L, Mississauga South).
Speaking in favour of her bill, Lalonde said C-384 “amends the Criminal Code so that a medical practitioner does not commit homicide just by helping a person to die with dignity.”
Lalonde noted Quebec medical professionals support legalizing physician-assisted suicide and pointed to polls from Quebec that purport to show the public supports her bill. She also reiterated some of the supposed safeguards her bill includes, such as requiring that those who request euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide be 18 years or older, that individuals have to be experiencing “severe” physical or mental pain and that two written requests must be made at least 10 days apart expressing the wish to die.
Gourde raised issues about the lack of safeguards. “Bill C-384 is too broad in terms of its scope,” he said, noting that, “The proposed legalization of medical euthanasia and assisted suicide would not only apply to terminally ill patients, but also to persons who suffer from severe physical or mental pain without any prospect of relief.” He noted that those who were depressed could request a physician’s assistance in committing suicide.
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