Ray Pennings – Commentary:

When Justice Minister David Lametti was a guest on the Toronto Star podcast “It’s Political” on Nov. 18, he stated that doctor-assisted suicide (euphemistically known as medical assistance in dying or MAiD) “provides a more humane way” for Canadians who are physically or mentally incapable of ending their own lives to do so. When asked if the state had a role in facilitating suicide, the minister answered that “because some have a right to do it, we can’t say to others you don’t have a right to do it simply because you’re physically incapable.” Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of think tank Cardus, released the following statement in response to the minister:

Minister Lametti’s remarks about suicide are dehumanizing both for those who seek death and for the medical professionals who are called upon to cause it. While the minister acknowledges it is “difficult when you lose a loved one to suicide,” he fails to recognize all suicides as tragedies or as evidence of our collective failure to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in Canada. With the federal government itself reporting that an average of more than 10 people a day die by suicide in Canada, Minister Lametti’s comments about “more humane” options are shocking and unbecoming of a person in his position.

By tacitly accepting that the state has a role in facilitating suicide, Minister Lametti also suggests that suicide is a form of medical care. How does he see suicide fitting into the primary objective of health care policy, as set out in the Canada Health Act, “to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada?” This primary objective would appear to recognize the dignity of the person at any and all stages of life; doctor-assisted suicide does not meet this objective. Does the minister genuinely see suicide as medical care? If so, does he appreciate the difficulty this causes for many medical practitioners who would be obligated to participate in providing suicide?

And on what basis does the minister assert that suicide is a right? If Canadians indeed have a right to suicide, would suicide prevention efforts undermine their right?

Minister Lametti’s comments on doctor-assisted suicide raise many questions that deserve full and complete answers. He must clarify his remarks for the sake of all Canadians, especially the most vulnerable among us.

Ray Pennings is the executive vice president of the Cardus think tank. These comments were released on Dec. 1, 2022 as “Statement regarding Justice Minister David Lametti’s comments on doctor-assisted suicide” on the Cardus website.