Mr. Speaker, I will preface my comments tonight by saying it is not my intent to offend anyone, but I do believe that this is the time for plain speaking.
This bill is about choices and it is about rights. Although I resent that the Supreme Court has ignored 15 rulings of Parliament that said we did not want to bring in any law on this subject, I respect that we have to bring one in by June 6. Of course, if we do not bring one in, I am not sure that the consequence is worse than this rushed Bill C-14. As I understand it, if we do not bring in legislation, we remain in the circumstance we are today, where there is the precedent of the Carter decision but no law in either direction for or against.
I said that the bill is about choices and rights. First, let us talk about choices. If I want to kill someone, myself, my baby, or someone else, this is a choice I can make today in Canada. Each one has consequences not just for me, but for many others. If I kill myself, my insurance will not pay out, and that will affect my family. They will also deal with, hopefully, the emotional trauma from the shock of missing me.
If I kill my baby pre-term, I have to live with that, and the father of the baby has to deal with it, but otherwise, there is currently no consequence.
If I kill someone else, I risk imprisonment. I understand that the Carter decision is trying to ensure that even people who cannot pick up a gun themselves can choose to get assistance in killing themselves.
However, their choice does have an impact on others. It has an impact on the health providers who are opposed to participating and whose rights of religious freedom and the right to refuse to participate are not adequately protected in this current version of Bill C-14.
It has an impact on the taxpayer, who will be paying for several doctor consults, and if some of the suggested amendments come into place, additional psychiatric reviews or judicial reviews, as well as the drugs to do the deed. When we kill ourselves, we pay for the bullets or the rope.
Let us look at how this legislation addresses the Carter decision. Keep in mind that the Carter decision limited the scope to those who are over 18, terminally ill, and can give consent. I do not see anywhere in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that we have the right to die, only that we have the right to live, so certainly the Carter decision, in my view, is flawed.
However, the decision limited the scope to those over 18, terminally ill, and with the ability to give consent, so I find it incredible that this bill before us is looking to study extending this right to mature minors, to those with psychological only conditions of suffering, and those who do not qualify as mentally competent to give consent.
I was a youth leader for over 30 years, and I have known young people who broke up with their boyfriends and girlfriends and who took their own lives. These were tragedies that could have been avoided if hope and counsel had been provided. However, there will be many more lives taken before their time if we allow mature minors to ask for assisted death.
This is a dark path. We should not be studying it or even considering it.
With regard to the studies on whether people who are mentally ill should be able to request medical assistance in dying, I am asking that the bill be amended to ensure that it does not provide for that possibility at all.
Many people suffer from depression, but it is treatable. I know many people who take anti-depressants and medications that come with a warning that possible side effects may include suicidal thoughts. If we start killing people who are not actually dying, it is akin to murder.
For those who want to give their advance consent to be killed later, I ask them: why wait? Why not let them choose suicide when they are still able to commit suicide, rather than letting someone do it for them? They are not choosing to commit suicide in the beginning because they want to live as well and for as long as they can. That is why Canada needs good palliative care.
In my riding of Sarnia—Lambton, we have excellent palliative care. St. Joseph's Hospice has a wonderful staff, and we have the co-operation of Bluewater Health, the VON, community care, and so many other organizations, along with palliative care specialists who give the end of life dignity and meaning.
However, because palliative care is not completely funded in Canada, the hospice has to undergo significant fundraising of some $1.4 million each year. Government funding covers only 43% of the costs. Food, building maintenance, program coordinators, day hospice, and crisis support are not covered.
The cost of palliative care at home or in hospice is one-quarter of the cost of palliative care in acute care facilities. However, Bill C-14 would not do what it so simply could: amend the Canada Health Act to make palliative care a covered service so that all Canadians would have the end-of-life care that would cause them to choose life. Yes, of those who have good palliative care, 95% of them choose to live as long as they can and as well as they can. That is something missing in this bill.
Now that we have talked about choices, let us talk about rights. Most people who want to kill themselves can pick up the gun, or take an overdose, or hang themselves, or whatever. We are not talking about a huge percentage of people who cannot pick up the needle or swallow the pill. We are talking about a very slight minority of people. On the other hand, we have millions of health care workers, doctors, and nurses who for reasons of religion or otherwise do not want to participate in the killing of people, yet this bill says nothing about that. The rhetoric when the bill was presented said that health care providers would be able to refuse to participate or refer. However, based on the history of broken promises, I would want to see that one in black and white in the bill to be sure that the intent to protect the rights of health care workers is captured.
Let us move on to the subject of taxpayers' rights. When an individual decides to kill himself, he pays for his own bullets or pills. Now, the bill seeks to transfer that burden to taxpayers, who will have to cover the cost of medical consults and associated administrative formalities. I am opposed to my tax dollars being used to kill people.
I believe that, if people want to kill themselves, they should have to pay for the entire process. Some may say that killing people costs less than taking care of them, but that is a slippery slope, is it not? It creates a situation where we may start calculating the price of keeping people alive. In time, death may become a way to save money.
That was the case in all of the other countries that have implemented similar legislative measures. Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark all started out with strict guarantees. However, these guarantees were hard to implement and were eventually set aside.
After that, it became easy and practical to get rid of vulnerable and undesirable members of society. The percentage of deaths rose from less than 1% to 6%. I do not believe that there is enough accountability in this bill and I would like to see improvements made in that regard.
As I said, this bill is about choices and rights. I believe the bill does not do enough to protect the rights of health care workers, the young, and the vulnerable. I believe the choice to kill oneself should come with consequences, which are not well laid out in this bill, such as forfeiting of insurance and the cost of the deed for starters.
I am recommending that the bill be amended in committee to document the protection of health care workers' right to refuse without retribution, to capture the duty of the requesting individual to cover the cost of the process, and to remove from the scope of this bill the studying of mature minors, advance consent, and those suffering psychologically.