Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my very esteemed colleague from Shefford.
The debate we are having today must be handled with restraint, dignity and composure. Partisanship has no place here. This is a serious matter, and our decision will have significant repercussions on the lives of many, and perhaps even on our own lives one day, because we all have to leave this world sometime. It is inevitable.
The sad thing in all this is that, through decisions made in this very Parliament, our society has forced people who are suffering to suffer even more. People with severe medical conditions were forced to appeal to the justice system to have their most basic rights upheld. Worse yet, some had to go on a hunger strike to get access to medical assistance in dying by meeting the reasonably foreseeable death requirement. Do hon. members have any idea what we have asked these suffering patients to endure?
These long-suffering people coping with illness, trying to get through the day in unspeakable physical and psychological agony, were forced to go to court or put themselves in a position where their death was reasonably foreseeable. Everyone knows that the justice system is backed up. The costs and delays are typically unreasonable. These people had to endure a veritable ordeal because we made a decision for them.
We failed to make informed decisions that upheld individual liberty. It is a huge privilege to sit in this House, and with that privilege come serious responsibilities. We must honour our position. I want all members of the House to know that this time, we cannot fail. Courageous patients have had to fight the system to get us to make a wise, informed decision. The Superior Court of Quebec gave very clear directives. We must have the courage and vision to apply these directives and support this bill in principle, because it deserves to be improved in committee.
The Beaudoin decision in favour of Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon is very clear: “The Court has no hesitation in concluding that the reasonably foreseeable natural death requirement infringes Mr. Truchon and Ms. Gladu's rights to liberty and security, protected by section 7 of the Charter.”
We must read those last few lines carefully. They refer to the rights to life and freedom of choice. Which of us can presume to choose for someone else? I want to warn my colleagues against the temptation to think about themselves. I want to warn them against voting according to their own beliefs, philosophies or religion. Freedom to choose must be upheld, and in order to choose, we need options. The basis of the decision, which came after a very long wait and constant anguish, makes it very clear that this is about rights and freedoms. No one can choose for another person. We must remove the barriers so that everyone can live out their last moments in their own way, freely and without constraint. Of course, we must not fail to protect the most vulnerable, in accordance with the well-established rule, in medical practice, of free and informed consent. That means informed by exposure to all possible options, and free from any undue pressure.
This bill is a step in the right direction. It includes important precautionary measures and provides for the study of other important issues that need to be considered. Among other things, it would exclude people suffering solely from mental illness. I think that is a wise decision. This is an extremely complex issue that should be studied further. We cannot decide on this issue right now, hence the need to study it properly without skipping any steps.
We must also look at the issue of advance requests for persons newly diagnosed with a condition that may have an impact on their decision-making ability in the future. These are extremely sensitive issues that we must study with great care and a great deal of precaution. It is therefore wise not to include them for now.
Generally speaking, the purpose of this bill is to allow those suffering from degenerative, incurable diseases to have access to medical assistance in dying, whether natural death is reasonably foreseeable or not, except in cases of degenerative cognitive disease, as I was just saying.
For people whose death is reasonably foreseeable, this is about relaxing the rules by eliminating the 10-day waiting period between the written request and the administration of MAID. The 10-day waiting period may be waived if a person has been assessed and their request for MAID has been approved and arrangements have been made with their practitioner to obtain a waiver of final consent because the patient is at risk of losing their capacity to make a decision as the disease progresses or with the administration of pain-relief medication. That way, when making the request for MAID, the patient can agree to waive consent the second time if their pain is beyond treatment, even with care.
This last measure allows the person to live longer with a reasonable quality of life. The person therefore does not have to feel like they have to rush to request MAID out of fear of losing their capacity to do so.
For people whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, there is a 90-day delay between the request and the provision of the MAID service, unless assessments have been made and the loss of capacity is imminent. This time period must therefore be applied in a reasonable and reasoned manner. Who among us can guarantee that 90 days will be enough for some? Who among us can say whether 90 days will be too long a hell to endure for others? We are entitled to question the application of this delay. No one can say. That is why this clause and this entire bill will have to be implemented in a sensible, flexible and intelligent way. Practitioners are in the best position to determine what is valid and what is not when they work together with their patients, listen to them and, of course, treat them humanely. Ultimately, the priority must be the patients themselves, their well-being and their dignity.
I remind all members that although we are talking about dignity, this is above all about rights and freedoms. Every person at end of life must have options, and that individual is the only one who should be able to make that choice. We must not impose our own values and opinions. We must simply ensure that we provide a suitable framework regulating the practice of and the right to medical assistance in dying. We must respect the freedom of the individual. That is fundamental.
I urge all parliamentarians in the House to consider the huge responsibility we must shoulder. We hold in our hands the fate of hundreds of thousands of people. Not only is the end-of-life suffering of these people in our hands, but the suffering and anguish of their family members is as well. It is horrific to watch a loved one suffer at end of life and to feel helpless. Some members of the House may be thinking about personal choices. As I mentioned earlier, we need to figure out a reasonable framework for this very complex act and, through all of this, maintain freedom of choice for these individuals.