On Feb. 12, the parliamentary notice paper showed that Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde (La Pointe-de-l’Île) has, for the third time, introduced a private member’s bill that will, if passed, legalize euthanasia.
The text of “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Right to Die With Dignity)” was not available as of press time.
In her 2005 private member’s bill, C-407, Lalonde had sought to legalize assisted suicide by allowing anyone – whether or not the individual was a doctor – to “assist” another person to commit suicide. According to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, C-407 was poorly written and would have permitted wide-open euthanasia without restriction. C-407 died on the House floor when an election was called in December 2005.
In June 2008, Lalonde introduced C-562, a minimally revised version of her earlier bill. It permitted people with physical or mental pain to seek euthanasia, allowed them to refuse appropriate treatment and did not define terminal illness nor limit euthanasia to those who are terminally ill. C-562 died on the House floor when the election was called in September.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said of Lalonde’s latest attempt to legalize euthanasia: “We are very concerned about the bill.”
He told The Interim euthanasia threatens the lives of people with disabilities, the elderly and chronically ill. A prohibition on euthanasia, he said, is the only thing that protects the vulnerable. Schadenberg said “instead of killing the vulnerable, we should be caring for them.”
He also said laws should not be changed in reaction to high-profile unfortunate cases that make sensational headlines in the media, highlighting the case of Chantal Maltais, a wheelchair-bound Quebec man who is thought to have been aided in hanging himself by his nephew Stephane Dufour. Last year, Dufour was found not guilty, but Quebec prosecutors plan to appeal the decision.
In an earlier interview in December, Schadenberg told The Interim he expected Lalonde would re-introduce her bill in early 2009, because she drew number 42 in the private members’ lottery that determines which order MPs who are not cabinet ministers get to introduce their private members’ bill and motions. Drawing number 42 means it is likely that the bill will be debated and voted on this year.
The EPC will release an analysis of the bill when it sees its exact wording.