March 07, 2015

Conservative MP advocates for physician-assisted suicide "in cases involving the full consent of a cognitive adult"

Brian LilleyRebel Co-Founder
 

Conservative Party MP Steven Fletcher says his private members bill (C-582) is strikingly similar to the Supreme Court's recent decision regarding assisted suicide.

I caught up with Fletcher at this weekend's Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa.

Fletcher explains that he is an advocate for physician-assisted suicide in cases involving the full consent of a cognitive adult.

This means that under the provisions of his private member's bill, those suffering from conditions like dementia and chronic depression wouldn't qualify.

Fletcher also explains that his bill contains safeguards such as a three-physician panel, which would protect vulnerable individuals from being taken advantage of.

We talk about the continuing need for better hospice and palliative care, as well as additional resources to allow those with disabilities to live meaningful and dignified lives.

Finally, I asked him what would happen if a Canadian doctor refused to participate in physician-assisted suicide on religious or ethical grounds:

 

(Earlier today at the Conference, I also spoke to world-renowned ethicist Margaret Somerville, who opposes the legalization of assisted suicide.)

 

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Comments
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commented 2015-03-17 14:42:32 -0400
I was very strongly opposed to this and had frequent arguments with my mother on this subject. After I attended my mother’s death I saw that she was right. I don’t think anyone has anything more than a theoretical opinion on this subject until they have been a hospice volunteer for a year or so.

Actually it has been going on for years….it’s a game….the doctor is looking for that just right dose of morphine that will get the job done without causing an inquest.

Just read the label on chemo-therapy drugs and tell me those are not physician assisted suicide.

Toward the end there was only that unspoken body language between me and my mother….I wanted to sing “The Last Rose of Summer” for her and finish it with a pillow…..she gasped for air nearly 48 hours in a room that stank of gangrene from the parts of her that were already dead waiting for the rest of her to catch up…forgive me Mother…I just couldn’t do it.
commented 2015-03-09 15:44:44 -0400
RICHARD: Perhaps you misunderstand the supreme court ruling. The ruling is for assisted suicide, not euthanasia. No doctor is going to kill you. The doctor may prescribe you a legal dosage of some medication, but it will be up to you to commit suicide. If you are unable to do so because of your condition then what you need is euthanasia, and that isn’t what this article is about, nor what the SCC ruling is regarding.
commented 2015-03-09 14:34:03 -0400
You are still not getting it. When the time comes, I wont be physically able to end my own life, someone will have to do it as per my living will directive. I’m also quite willing to pay for the time any doctor is required.
commented 2015-03-09 14:30:04 -0400
Richard: You already have the right to end your own life. I don’t think there is anyone here who has suggested otherwise. We would hope you don’t choose that option, but it is already yours. The problem is you are now asking to implicate OTHER people in your decision. You are asking us not only to help you to kill yourself, but for us to PAY for you to kill yourself. You are infringing on our rights and forcing your beliefs on us. Plus, as Wanda Orion points out, once the door is opened, innocent people will die. That’s just unacceptable.
commented 2015-03-09 13:18:13 -0400
Richard, you do have the right to make that final choice already. The problem is whether the state should assist you by (a) providing you with the tools with which to do it or (b) to kill you directly through some form of lethal injection. It is the ethical issues raised by the latter, in particular, that trouble some of us. The issue is the balance of harm – should it favour you and others who will be in a perfectly solid position to make this decision for yourselves if/when the time comes or should it favour others who may be misunderstood, manipulated or ever coerced into permitting the state to kill them? There is a good probability that these situations will occur. This recent commentary in the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/10/06/expanding-the-right-to-die/doctor-assisted-suicide-is-unethical-and-dangerous provides some insight based on experiences in the Netherlands and Belgium. Could it happen here? Should we take the chance? These are the kinds of issues that require a fuller discussion.
commented 2015-03-09 12:56:26 -0400
Look. it’s simple. No one is forcing you to die if you so choose to keep in pain because of your religious convictions. This is for those of us who do not follow such convictions and want it to be OUR decision when to end our own lives. I should have that right in a free society to make that final choice.
commented 2015-03-09 11:21:45 -0400
“I don’t believe any of us wants to see our loved one suffer”. No it is not easy but nobody has a life without any form of pain & suffering . Does suffering is really the issue here ? Showing compassion toward whom ? The one who suffer or our own suffering seeing someone in pain &suffering . I believe in sanctity of life given by God our creator and that pain and suffering has a purpose . No one like pain and suffering including myself , i can say that i even hate death because at the beginning , we were not created to die but sickness & death came as the consequence of the fall of men . Being a believer in Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, to know that death is a gain for me , i still want to live and hurt when i see someone in pain & suffering. Like Maurice Potvin wrote ,“This is an issue that won’t be resolved in an on-line discussion. That’s because the answer depends on one’s( world view), which for most of us is pretty inflexible (that includes me)”. “However, if you believe that your body and your life are a gift from God, and that ultimately you belong to Him, and that life is sacrosanct, and that He always has a purpose in how and when you die, then obviously ending your life before God’s time is wrong. (That’s what I believe, but( obviously not everyone shares that point of view. That’s OK!)”. Doctors should go with their own conscience and believes , not having this reglementation impose on them by people who have a
misrepresentation of the Hippocratic Oath.
commented 2015-03-09 10:03:56 -0400
RICHARD WAKEFIELD: I am not wrong. All pain can be managed. Your wife, with all due respect is a nurse, not a neurologist or a pain specialist. Your wife is seeing the deficiency in the palliative care that is available. And that deficiency, in many places does exist. But that is the problem – proper care is not being given. Proper care CAN be given, its simply a matter of having the will to do so. We do not treat animals “more humanely”. That is misguided, ethically challenged suggestion. Animals are not human. If you think murdering someone because you think they are suffering is “humane”, just because we do it for animals, well that’s really very sad. We shoot horses because they break their legs, should we do the same for people? Ridiculous!
commented 2015-03-09 08:56:57 -0400
“Robert makes a good point that all pain can be managed”

No, he is wrong. My wife is a nurse who has worked in long term care, and other aspects of the health care system which deals with people near end of life. There are instances where no pain can be relieved except through comma. That is not living, that is not dignified, that is keeping some body alive for misguided moral and religious reasons. It is in fact a form of torture to keep someone alive as long as possible regardless of the condition of that person. We treat animals more humanely.
commented 2015-03-08 17:57:04 -0400
This is an issue that won’t be resolved in an on-line discussion. That’s because the answer depends on one’s world view, which for most of us is pretty inflexible (that includes me). It depends not on just who you are, but rather WHOSE you are. If you believe your body is your own and you have the right to do with it as you wish, then you obviously have the right to end your life, and no one has the right to prevent you from doing so. However, if you believe that your body and your life are a gift from God, and that ultimately you belong to Him, and that life is sacrosanct, and that He always has a purpose in how and when you die, then obviously ending your life before God’s time is wrong. (That’s what I believe, but obviously not everyone shares that point of view. That’s OK!). However, my biggest problem is Steven Fletcher’s hypocritical misrepresentation of the Hippocratic Oath, or maybe he never read it. No one has the right to force anyone, including Doctors, to do something that goes against conscience or their moral or religious beliefs. Society may have the right to PREVENT some one from doing something in the name of moral values or religion if it compromise the freedom and safety of other. But that’s entirely different than forcing them to actively engage in what they would view as immoral acts.
commented 2015-03-08 14:39:37 -0400
This is one subject we don’t all see eye to eye with our fellow rebels. We have to be respectful of each other’s opinions. We are all on the same side regardless of our views on assisted suicide. I don’t believe any of us wants to see our loved one suffer. Compassion and understanding has to be front and centre. I don’t feel there is a wrong and a right in this matter.
commented 2015-03-08 14:19:08 -0400
Robert makes a good point that all pain can be managed. Problem is that the hospital bureaucracy sucks up so much of available resources that the “funding” isn’t there for the medications, the beds, the caregivers and so on, so more innovative means must always be found to deal with the chronically or terminally ill. It blows me away that anyone would suggest that the doctors will always make the thoughtful, ethical and correct decision. Consider how the medical professional routinely covers up for and defends its most incompetent members. While some doctors are good people who will resist the pressure and the pull of a culture of self-interest and butt-covering, many will not. In the megahospitals of today, the work culture is shaped and formed by the bureaucracy. Over time the culture becomes dysfunctional and perverse. No one is immune. I was never a fan of Sarah Palin but her comment about Canadian hospital “death panels” has been occurring to me as I’ve been reading these articles.
commented 2015-03-08 14:09:34 -0400
Richard Wakefield: I cannot think of anything worth more respect and admiration than someone facing the end of life bravely and respectfully. I cannot think of anything less admirable than a person’s last act being that of a coward. If you want to commit suicide, you are already free to do so. Do not implicate me in this cowardice. Do not force me to pay ( $) for your sin. No person need be in chronic pain, all pain can be managed – its simply an issue of us having the will to do so. I care for you and would put whatever resources were necessary for you to live the end of your life comfortably. But I value your life, all the way to its natural end. Instead of killing people we should take proper care of them.
commented 2015-03-08 14:05:53 -0400
Richard, patients may once have been physicians’ first priority. Not any more. I know enough doctors forced out of practice for providing care the government doesn’t condone. I agree there are some ethical doctors still, but increasingly they are marginalized. Universities give awards to doctors who malpractice. It’s a fact that doctor ethics have been and continue to be compromised by government demands.

It’s all about the money.
commented 2015-03-08 12:39:18 -0400
I have no issue with the right of a person to end their own life. If you want to kill yourself, go ahead. That’s autonomy of the person. The idea of highly paid public servants sticking people with needles to kill them, however, makes me very uneasy. No matter how tightly we write the law and how many policies and waivers we develop to ensure that no one gets offed unless they really, really want to.

I do not trust the state or its minions in the health care bureaucracies to interpret and apply the rules to the letter. The pressure that relatives of critically ill patients now receive to sign off on do not resuscitate orders is a sign that “moving ’em out” is a priority in the health care system. For every doctor who may be committed to administering the lethal injection only after all the checks have been performed, there are a dozen colleagues and even more health care bureaucrats who will be tempted to stretch the rules to free up hospital beds.

I’m concerned that the definition of “cognitive” will be stretched, “end of life” will be presented as an “option” to confused and despondent human beings who, in a moment of weakness, may decide to go for it even though they are conflicted about the idea. Who wants to die will be decided based on some other person’s subjective ideas about who should die, whose life is not worth living, who isn’t worth keeping around, who should be put out of their misery.

Deep thought and ethical reasoning are neither encouraged nor rewarded in the health care bureaucracy. Some argue that we put dogs out of their misery, but that’s the problem…human beings aren’t dogs. No one asks the dog for his opinion or his permission. I don’t believe that anyone employed in the health care field should kill another human being. Set up something that enables a person to do it by their own hand or permits a family member or friend to help. But I don’t believe the state should employ Dr. Death.
commented 2015-03-08 11:31:33 -0400
“The state pays doctors to do what they are told, to kill whomever the state tells them to.”

That’s bullshit. Doctor’s first priority is their patients. Don’t tar all doctors.
commented 2015-03-08 11:29:37 -0400
“Suicide, whether self-inflicted or “assisted” is an awful way to be remembered. “My dad killed himself”. Is that how you want to be remembered?”

What is an awful way to be remembered is to be in a hospital or nursing home bed, having to shit in your bed, pissing yourself, feeding tubes, in chronic pain, and having your family see you that way. We put animals out of their misery for compassionate reasons, why are humans less able to have compassion for end of their lives? My entire family is in agreement, so your assumption is not correct.
commented 2015-03-08 11:25:00 -0400
“I truly hope when your time comes you will not be seduced by the temptation to commit one, final, cowardly act”

Oh, please. There is no heroism to suffer in severe pain and unable to do anything about it. MY life, MY decision.
commented 2015-03-08 10:17:19 -0400
Richard, when was the last time you heard of any doctor being charged with murder for assisting death? Doctors commit crimes as frequently as any other population but are almost never charged. It took forever to get Charles Smith arrested because doctors enjoy protection from prosecution no matter how much harm they do.

I know who assists suicide in my community. Doctors do it regularly out of compassion with overdoses that kill pain and hasten death. That is what compassionate doctors do. But they work for governments that do not care about compassion, only money. That is why people suffer so much in death. Governments do not want to pay for palliative care. I wish the SCC had just left status quo alone. Assisted suicide is already not criminalized. No one arrests doctors for murder.

What requiring doctors to kill does is allows governments to kill on a large scale using doctors as weapons. The state pays doctors to do what they are told, to kill whomever the state tells them to. I would much have preferred the SCC, if it must interfere with parliament’s duty to write law, to require palliative care that relieves pain up to death instead of requiring doctors to administer one fell swoop of lethal injection to whomever a panel committe, paid by government, tells them to and that they must, by law do,if they want to work.
commented 2015-03-08 10:02:31 -0400
RICHARD WAKEFIELD: I truly hope when your time comes you will not be seduced by the temptation to commit one, final, cowardly act. “Dying with dignity” is a clever con-job manufacturered by those who relish death. There is no “death with dignity”. All death is tragic. What is dignified is living despite the challenges that life provides. What is dignified is carrying on to see life through to its natural end. Suicide, whether self-inflicted or “assisted” is an awful way to be remembered. “My dad killed himself”. Is that how you want to be remembered? Is that the lesson you want to provide your children, grandchildren and those around you? That human life is cheap and that the proper thing to do is to “die” and get out of the way? Really? That’s what you see as “dignified”? Pain management is a whole other issue. We have the ability to control all pain. The issue is not whether we can do it, but whether we have the will to provide proper palliative care. THAT is what we should ALL be working on, THAT is the solution to the problem. The solution to the problem is not to simply kill off those most vulnerable. The moment we do that, we have passed judgement on all human life, and devalued everyone.
commented 2015-03-08 09:10:48 -0400
ROBERT BARNES I understand that aspect of this. This is not about one’s ability to take their own lives. This is about those who are suffering who do not have the physical ability to take their lives. It’s about a rational, compassionate, and safe way to honour one’s wishes to end their lives. As it stands now, anyone who helps someone with their death would be charged with murder. We need to allow people a dignified death on their terms, not one of whithering away in constant pain. I’ve seen it, and I do not want that for me, nor my wife.
commented 2015-03-07 23:26:00 -0500
Steven Fletcher is my MP, and he is a disgrace. I am ashamed that I volunteered for his election campaign, and will certainly be doing everything I can to get this man removed from representing me and the people of my riding. This man does not represent us, and his views on this are contrary to the majority of the people here. He is a mean spirited, angry man.
commented 2015-03-07 23:23:59 -0500
Richard Wakefield: You already have the legal ability to take your own life. This change makes suicide the government’s problem, and it makes it my problem – by forcing doctors – employees of the state, to participate in your death, and for our health care system (ie, ME and everyone else here) to pay for it. So, sadly your argument is backwards. I don’t want governments and doctors involved in your suicide -keep it to yourself and leave us out of it.
commented 2015-03-07 20:37:33 -0500
Like three doctors, paid by the state, can’t be corrupted. Good Lord!

Fletcher better kill himself before his health deteriorates to the point he is diagnosed with depression or dementia.

Listen, if you are going to sanction this, do not discriminate on the basis of mental illness or disease. Many people with cancer get very depressed. Chemo causes depression. So in the final stages, when they are screaming in pain, Fletcher would deny them what he wants for himself just because some doctor has treated them for mental disorder?

Far too many holes in this argument.

The SCC should have left this alone, respected the status quo. Doctors in Canada have been assisting suicide for years. Mind you, no university has been paid to graduate specialists in murder and no doctor has been billing taxpayers monthly murder quotas, but its been decriminalized for ever.

Does Fletcher not get it that state paid for murder did not end with Joey Mengele?

I’m depressed by this issue. Or does that make me demented?
commented 2015-03-07 19:56:45 -0500
Ok William for instance. I married a woman with a 6year old child. I didn’t know his father and I’m sure he’s a unethical, immoral scourge to society. (Not that I should judge) But I adopted and raised the boy as my own, he is an outstanding young man who gives me much love.
commented 2015-03-07 19:28:07 -0500
This is one thing I do agree with. This is my life, and should be my decision if and when I want to die. Can we have at least ONE thing the government doesnt have it’s hand in?
commented 2015-03-07 19:22:48 -0500
William, how can you decide who lives or dies?
commented 2015-03-07 18:01:26 -0500
“Written nearly 2,500 years ago, the Hippocratic Oath is the most famous text in Western medicine.”
And what was the average life span oh so long ago? “The average life expectancy in 400 BC was estimated to be around 30 years.”
Your biggest problem back then was getting run over by a runaway chariot!
It was a different time with different circumstances when the Hippocratic Oath was first written. How about somebody re-write the Hippocratic Oath to reflect what’s happening in our century. And sure as hell, the Hippocratic Oath does not apply to unborn babies. Why? Because some dimwit politicians have decided not to allow it to apply. Unborn baby? Not human. Really?
commented 2015-03-07 18:01:23 -0500
Ernest Albright, do you think a woman who was raped and became pregnant has no right to have an abortion if she didn’t want to carry her rapists child? What if it was your wife, sister or daughter?