‘A person’s right to choose is what is at the heart of this bill’


Francine Lalonde’s private member’s bill on assisted suicide—previously discussed here—received its final hour of debate Tuesday evening and was then defeated last night by a count of 230-57. Lalonde was basically asking, at this point, for her bill to be sent to committee for further study and amendment.

Steven Fletcher, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, who has written about his feelings on this issue and Lalonde’s bill, abstained. She did though draw the support of two cabinet ministers—Lawrence Cannon and Josee Verner—and several Liberal and NDP members.


‘A person’s right to choose is what is at the heart of this bill’

  1. I don't think there's another social issue type debate I'm more torn on than this. It's a really difficult thing to grapple with, and my opinion would be entirely dependent on the specifics of any proposed legislation.

  2. It upsets me when people on either side try to simplify this issue. Mr. Fletcher illustrates how complicated the issue is, and I am torn on it just like WDM.

  3. I too can see both sides of this extremely difficult and personal issue, which is why I support legislation allowing people to make the call for themselves.

  4. I support that idea in theory, but even that is simplifying it. You would have to make the call now as to what you would want if you're incapacitated or can't communicate,and there's no way to really know what you would want in such a situation because it's such a hypothetical. And studies have shown many elderly people would choose assisted suicide to avoid being a burden on their families because they don't fully understand the care options available to them. Someone of sound mind who is suffering, and understands all their options, should be able to choose to end their life, but there are many shades of grey.

  5. Again, we choose to be backward.

  6. To me, that's probably the most important part. I would say that the focus should be on who makes the decision, not on what the decision is.

    If we could ensure that it's clear who makes the call under what circumstances (and that that is the appropriate person) I think I'd be pretty comfortable with just letting that person make the call. I think we'd have one heck of a time trying to come up with legislation that people can all get behind if it deals with "what should the answer be", because the answer is so dependent on context (both the medical context and the moral context – i.e. the beliefs of the person in question). We could, however, perhaps come to a more general agreement as a society surrounding WHO should be empowered to make this type of decision under what circumstances. Another citizen may have a diametrically opposed view on the ethics of end of life decisions than I do. However, so long as that citizen is comfortable with who will be making the decision for them if they are incapable, and I am also comfortable about who will be making the decision for me (even if the decision for them is "Keep me alive, in any sense of the word, at any cost" and for me it's, "If I so much as stub my toe, pull the plug") then I think I can see a way forward in that.

    Of course, that all makes it sound orders of magnitude easier than it really is!

    • " I would say that the focus should be on who makes the decision, not on what the decision is."

      And even then, once we decide who makes the decision, when is it appropriate to make it? When the patient is near death? Or when a patient has just been diagnosed with a chronic, fatal illness? (Or somewhere prior to that? Somewhere in between?)

      • I assume the test would be "at a time when they have the capacity to make the decision, free of undue influence."

  7. These concerns are valid but I don't think it would be tremedously difficult to put procedures in place to deal with them.

  8. Can we agree at least to not call it "assisted suicide" but rather "assisted death", suicide denote a form of imbalance of the mind that leads to someone killing himself. From Sir Terry Pratchett at the Richard Dimbleby Lecture from the Royal College of Physicians:

    "Coroners never used the word "insanity". They preferred the more compassionate verdict that the subject had "taken his life while the balance of his mind was disturbed". There was ambivalence to the phrase, a suggestion of the winds of fate and overwhelming circumstance. In fact, by now, I have reached the conclusion that a person may make a decision to die because the balance of their mind is level, realistic, pragmatic, stoic and sharp.

    The people who thus far have made the harrowing trip to Dignitas in Switzerland to die seemed to me to be very firm and methodical of purpose, with a clear prima-face case for wanting their death to be on their own terms. In short, their mind may well be in better balance than the world around them."

    Here is the link from the lecture,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUE3pBIuAGk

    • I think "suicide" just means "kill himself", dude. From the latin "sui" (himself) and the root "cide" (kill). The word doesn't imply insanity, although in my (admittedly inexperienced) opinion the deed probably does.

      • I agree with you on the definition of the word, the point made by Pratchett is that those who decide to travel to Dignitas seems in greater control of their actions compared to a person who kills himself because of an untreated depression. The word in itself does not imply insanity but we associate that word to it.

        • Philosophical tangent alert: so insanity, in modern parlance and interpretation, is being approached as "illness" rather than "crime". As a result, if something implies "insanity", why do we treat it as "crime"? I.E., why is "suicide" a crime, if "suicide" implies insanity, that is, that one is mentally ill?

          Debate my logic all you like, I'm just throwing that thought out there for discussion.

          • We know that a serotonin imbalance can lead to problems connected to your mood, appetite, sleep, muscle contraction, and on some cognitive functions including memory and learning. This imbalance is treatable by using antidepressants and therapy. I still consider this quote from what Pratchett learned in his early days as a journalist, "Coroners never used the word "insanity". They preferred the more compassionate verdict that the subject had "taken his life while the balance of his mind was disturbed". I should not have have used the word insanity in my response to Gaunilon and rather have used the term "imbalance of the mind" that happens when your serotonin level is not at the level it should be.

            For the "illness" rather than "crime", it is not a simple subject to tackle,. Some who suffer from insanity kill people, it is a crime yet at the same time they need medical attention to overcome their insanity. I personally do not understand the logic that see suicide as a criminal offence, how can you prosecute a person that is dead?

  9. I worked as an orderly in a palliative care wing of a hospital for a year, and learned just how flexible consent becomes when dealing with terminally ill or disabled patients. I saw family members lied to, people medicated without their knowledge, people watched and imprisoned. Now, this is all necessary for the difficult task of looking after the infirm in long term facilities, but it definitely crushed any idea I had that "procedures could be put in place" to safeguard people from being killed without their consent. If even one person gets mistakenly killed, it is too high a price to pay.

    I will never, ever trust a health care system to care for me when I am infirm if euthanasia is legal. Heck, I barely trust it now.

    • Not disagreeing with your arguments – in fact I think you highlight the reasons I support this idea in theory but worry about it in practice – but we should not use euthanasia and assisted suicide as interchangeable terms.

    • This sounds like a reason for better monitoring of the system so that assisted suicide can be put in place in a more trustworthy environment, not a reason to disallow assisted suicide.

  10. I am with TedTylerEzro – to trust an already dysfunctional group of people who are inclined to play "God" is most unwise. If suicide is what is wanted, then do it yourself. If assisted murder is want is wanted, too bad, someone should go to jail!

    In my experience, those who would use "softer" words for suicide and murder would kill you in a heartbeat if they thought they had no possibility of personal liability – my advise is to just stay away from the type as they are sick little puppies who are or have somewhat broken values inside.

    My rule is simple ….. Only Kill What You Are Going To Eat!

    • I mistrust your "experience" on your stated point.

  11. I am glad this bill was defeated, as I do not support euthanasia (and any bill that includes the words "appears to be rational" scares me). The debate about the sanity of the person killing themselves makes very little sense. Suicide can never be a rational decision because no living person has any notion of what it means to be dead. Amplifying those problems by bringing a third party into the mix only makes this worse.

    Moreover, in the long-run euthanasia would lead to more pain and suffering. Why? Because drug companies won't research pain medication if large numbers of people end up killing themselves – there would be no market for it. So my preference is to keep people alive, and to search for ways in which to reduce their pain.

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