Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht is disappointed by the Supreme Court decision to strike down Canada’s law banning physician-assisted death.
“I have worked diligently during my years as an MP to protect life with the belief that all human life is sacred,” said Albrecht. “My private member’s motion M-388 called on our government to clarify that assisting suicide is a criminal offence, even if done via the internet. Furthermore, my private member’s bill C-300, which mandated the development of a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, reinforces my ongoing commitment to stand with vulnerable Canadians. Both of these measures received near unanimous support with all sides of the House solidly behind the legislation.”
A former pastor first elected to parliament in 2006, Albrecht has been a vocal opponent of both physician-assisted suicide and abortion since taking office.
“I have been clear with my constituents through three campaigns: I will do all that I can to stand up for and promote a culture of life,” he said.
The Supreme Court last week unanimously decided to quash a ban on doctors providing death for mentally competent, terminally ill patients. Now, parliament has a year to draft legislation that recognizes the right of Canadians suffering from irremediable illness to seek medical assistance to end their pain.
The groundbreaking decision has been applauded by civil liberties groups and numerous individuals across the country who have spoken out about seeing their loved ones experience horrific hardships at the end of their lives.
For Judy Nairns, executive director for the Hospice of Waterloo Region, the decision by the nation’s top court magnifies the need for Canadians to have conversations with their families regarding their values and wants for their end-of-life journeys.
“There isn’t enough knowledge in the community when it comes to the kind of supports that are available,” she said. “I think it comes down to the fact that people don’t like to talk about the potential for a death in the family, or their own death, for sure. And because they don’t talk about it they don’t really have a sense of what supports are available to them and so they don’t have a lot to go on when they are starting to make considerations around what might be an end of life journey for them.”
People need to start talking about their values and needs early and get informed on what is available in their communities, she said.
In that vein, the Hospice of Waterloo Region recently launched a three-year program, funded by the Waterloo-Wellington Local Health Integration Network aimed at encouraging and facilitating those conversations.
Physician-assisted suicide has been a part of the conversation for some time, Nairn said, and now healthcare providers are going to have to look at the issue very closely in order to make sure vulnerable people are protected and individuals have all the information they need to make educated decisions for themselves.
“Every single journey and circumstance is different,” she said. “Within the hospice and palliative care movement, we very much believe that it is possible to have a quality of life until a natural death and so accelerating that natural death would not be necessarily within the scope of what we have supported for the past 25 years as an organization.”