It’s time to talk about death.
That’s the message Conservative MP Steven Fletcher delivered Tuesday in an attention-grabbing speech to the House of Commons that referenced sex, vampires, and zombies.
But his words also paid tribute to right-to-die trailblazer, Sue Rodriguez.
Fletcher, paralyzed from the neck down after a car accident in 1996, began with a simple truth: nobody lives forever.
“Some people listening probably believe Elvis is still alive or that they will have a second chance as a zombie,” he said. “A lot of young people these days fantasize about becoming immortal vampires. Personally, I would not want that hickey.”
A lucky few, he said, will “die in their nineties while having sex with their bride of 65 years.”
But others may suffer the same fate as Rodriguez, an ALS victim whose 1992 fight to make physician-assisted suicide legal helped catapult the issue on the national agenda. She died — on her own terms, but with the help of an anonymous doctor — in 1994.
“She asked Canadians, ‘If I cannot give consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?'” he said.
That question, Fletcher said, was answered clearly last February by Canada's top court when it unanimously struck down the ban on providing a doctor-assisted death.
“The Supreme Court yelled back to Sue, ‘It’s your life, Sue. You decide your fate.’ And with that, physician-assisted death became legal in Canada,” he said.
“Let’s talk about it.”
In its ruling, the Supreme Court gave the federal government exactly 12 months to come up with new legislation recognizing the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to seek medical help to end their lives.
Some Tory MPs said at the time that one year was not enough time to tackle such a complicated, contentious issue. Tory backbencher Maurice Vellacott called on the federal government to use the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to delay the decision.
Fletcher, who has tabled two private member’s bills on the topic, does not believe the government will hit its deadline.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay said late last month that the government will soon release details of its public consultations on the issue, but will not introduce new legislation before the October election.
He said the government was proceeding “cautiously” and “respectfully” by consulting a number of different stakeholders.
“It is a very sensitive issue, a very personal issue for many, many people, and it has far reaching implications to say the least,” MacKay said.
Tories rejected a Liberal motion in February calling for a multi-party committee to consult and report back to Parliament by mid-summer with a proposed framework for a new law.
With files from The Canadian Press
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