Madam Speaker, I am very surprised we are debating these two motions from the official opposition again in the House when these had been dealt with in committee. Without reflecting on the past decision of the Speaker, I have some concerns with respect to future precedence in declaring something particularly important, that it not open the Chair to the accusation of having a position on a particular question.
With that aside, I will turn to what is now before us.
Everyone in the House has sincerely held beliefs on this very important and difficult question of how we deal with end of life in Canada. It is important we all be careful not to impute motives to our fellow members in this debate however difficult that may be for us to do.
Turning to the content of these two motions, and again, I am surprised we are having a redo in the House.
Motion No. 2 talks about what is referred to officially as reflection period. What happens in actual fact is that those who request medical assistance in dying, where death is reasonably foreseeable, go through a very long and involved process with their spiritual advisers, their family and with the clinicians who are advising them on the end-of-life issues.
It is important to note that people are not choosing to end their lives when asking for medical assistance in dying. What they are doing is attempting to establish how they will deal with their inevitable death and to maintain their personal autonomy and control over the way that plays out. The New Democrats, in debate on medical assistance in dying, have always stated our priority is to keep in mind that what medical assistance in dying is designed to do is to reduce unnecessary suffering and not unduly prolong that suffering.
It is not just suffering for the patients, although that is one of the qualifications for being able to apply for medical assistance in dying, patients must be suffering intolerably, but also to reduce suffering for the families that are forced to bear witness to the suffering their loved ones are undergoing as they approach end of life.
What we have heard very clearly from those who are assessing and providing medical assistance is dying is that this 10-day period is not really a reflection period. It is a period that is imposed as a waiting period.
When I hear hon. members talk about people changing their minds, we need to look very carefully at what the evidence actually says. Yes, people who apply for medical assistance in dying do sometimes withdraw that request, but they almost always do so during the assessment period. Very few people do so during the waiting period. Of course, at any time they can still withdraw that consent, right up to the last moment.
Medical assessors and providers, as well as families, have said that the real impact of having such a 10-day period is simply to prolong suffering for everyone. When we look at the statistics on when those who applied for medical assistance in dying actually set a date for that assistance to be provided, we find that 50% or more of those are between the 11th and 14th day. In other words, they are being forced to wait out this period before they can assess medical assistance in dying.
It is very important we recognize that we may, and I believe we have, inadvertently prolong suffering through this so-called reflection period. Again, I remind members that we have heard again and again that this is not a snap decision people make; it is a decision that has been well considered with their families, spiritual advisers and with the physicians involved.
Motion No. 3 deals with those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable. It is important we remind ourselves that the condition of death being reasonably foreseeable was, in effect, taken out of medical assistance in dying legislation by the Truchon decision, not by Bill C-7.
The importance of Bill C-7 is that it would establish some special procedures that would be appropriate to those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable. In that case, it set a minimum period for assessment, which was set at 90 days. Again, people are calling this a reflection period. It is not a reflection period. Nor is it a deadline by which medical assistance in dying must be carried out.
The bill would set a minimum time for assessment. If the clinicians and the patient involved believe the assessment should take longer, it can take longer than the 90 days. Therefore, the 90 days is in fact an arbitrary number. I do not think it is reflected in any medical science. Extending that to 120 has that risk, once again, of inadvertently and unintentionally prolonging suffering for those who are at the end of life.
I will not go on too long today, but it is important that we not confuse suicide with medical assistance in dying. Suicide is very serious, and I send my condolences to all those who have lost loved ones.
Medical assistance in dying is not about taking one's own life. It is about the situation when one's life is ending and how one maintains a dignified end to that life and is able to do so without prolonging suffering. We have heard again and again from families and practitioners that no one involved in medical assistance in dying wants anyone to die. They are simply dealing with the realities that medical conditions have presented to them. With that, I will end my comments.