Liberal MP Rob Oliphant takes part in an interview on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)Taylor's appeal to unelected senators was echoed by Toronto Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who co-chaired a special joint parliamentary committee on assisted dying that recommended a much more permissive approach to the issue.
While she believes Low would have been eligible for an assisted death under the proposed law, Taylor said it would condemn others suffering from a host of grave conditions — multiple sclerosis, Huntington's, Parkinson's, spinal stenosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease — to years of intolerable suffering. "Denying these patients the option of an assisted death simply because some groups classify them as vulnerable populations insults their capacity to make their own medical decisions," she told the committee. Noting that patients hooked up to ventilators in order to breathe can legally ask to be disconnected, Taylor asked: "If we accept these decisions as rational, why the double standard?" Taylor co-chaired the provincial and territorial advisory group which also recommended a more permissive approach to assisted dying. Bioethicist Jennifer Gibson, the other co-chair, said the group stuck to the wording of the Supreme Court ruling which struck down the ban on medically assisted death last year. And she urged the Senate committee to take the same approach with the proposed new legislation.
"I'm hoping the Senate is daring enough to really do their constitutional job, respect the House of Commons but offer some amendments that didn't come up."
Bill's wording more restrictive than court rulingThe Supreme Court recognized the right to an assisted death for clearly consenting adults with "grievous and irremediable" medical conditions who are enduring physical or mental suffering that they find intolerable. The bill takes a considerably more restrictive approach, allowing assisted death only for consenting adults in "an advanced stage of irreversible decline" from a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability and for whom a natural death is "reasonably foreseeable." It does not allow those with capacity-eroding conditions like dementia to make advance requests for an assisted death, nor does it extend the right to assisted dying to mature minors or people suffering solely from mental illnesses. Oliphant said he's decided to vote against the bill because every legal expert he's consulted believes it does not comply with the court ruling or the charter of rights. Moreover, he said he's attended nine town hall meetings on the subject and found that constituents overwhelmingly want the right to make advance directives. But the bottom line, Oliphant said, is his conscience won't allow him to support it. "To me, we had a huge opportunity from the Supreme Court to end some suffering, to alleviate suffering," he said. "My conscience won't let me vote for something that I think could add pain to a person's life."
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