Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise on this very important debate. It affects all of us, including my wife Melissa, my seven-year-old daughter Aurora, my four-year-old son Dawson, me, and everyone. Not all bills affect every Canadian, but this does. It is a very critical debate.
When this first came up in the House, I voted against it, because sadly there is much elder abuse in Canada, people who take advantage of those with less capacity. I encourage all legislatures, all four levels of government in Canada, all government workers, and all journalists to do everything in their power to work to eliminate elder abuse. That includes the protections needed in this particular bill.
I was also not comforted by what happens in some European countries with legislation. Many people are assisted in dying without their consent.
I have now been convinced by six items. First is the great care that was put into the protection provisions of this bill. There are two doctors or nurse practitioners, totally independent from each other, who are needed to approve the consent.
Informed consent is needed, and again at the time that the act will be carried out. The person must be suffering from intolerable pain. They must provide written consent. They must be in the process of dying, and there must be a 15-day waiting period.
There must be a five-year review of this bill, with the additions that many people might be suggesting during this debate.
Also, I have been convinced by the overwhelming support of my constituents who have contacted me, saying that people should have assistance in choosing the time to end their intolerable suffering.
I have also been convinced by the government's strong conviction, ensuring that there is good palliative care, so that the lack thereof is not what forces the choice of this other decision under this law.
I am also convinced by the cautious approach the government has taken to ensure that such a major life-and-death decision is done right.
Finally, I am convinced that there will be no sanction against health care workers who do not want to participate. I talked to a very experienced medical administrator who suggested that it could be up to 90% of doctors who would choose not to participate. For the provincial and territorial governments, that will provide an administrative challenge for those very small communities that may only have one practitioner.
I have asked my constituents, through the newspaper, to give me feedback. I received very heartfelt thanks and heartfelt views on all sides of this legislation, similar to what I am sure the other 338 members of Parliament have from many of their constituents. Of course, they were not all the same.
I have not had any bad experiences, as a number of MPs have had. However, I was moved by the sad stories of those who did, primarily with family members.
I remember a call from a mayor who told the story of the terrible suffering of a family member. It had gone on far longer than was ever needed. There was no benefit to the person. They did not want to be there.
I remember a call from another friend in a very similar situation. They exposed the myth that it was important not to do this in order to have family gathering together for a peaceful end. They outlined how that is a myth because at the end, in that particular case, the person was in so much pain and it was so distracting, the person did not want to or have the ability to see or gather with anyone.
I had feedback from another constituent whose father and other relatives had Alzheimer's disease. It was a terrible end that they did not want to have, and it could have been ended earlier.
Other constituents gave a large number of different views. One person said that if we allowed such suffering to go on in an animal, we would be charged. Another person talked about their husband who had a rapidly deteriorating disease. He wanted to die at home with family and could not. The doctor explained how that was not possible. They had a terrible painful experience in the hospital for their last few days.
On the other side of the issue, I had a nurse contact me who is totally against the bill and did not think we should proceed with it.
Then there were two views related to the people who are left behind in these situations. There were a number of people who, when in this terrible pain and suffering, did not want the suffering of their relatives and friends to go on. They wanted to terminate their lives so there would be no suffering left for their family and friends. On the other side of the coin, a person suggested we did not want to deny family and friends the wonderful ability to care for that person to the end.
Another person suggested that we have to make sure that all publicly funded health care facilities must allow this.
I also had a suggestion from someone who works with seniors, wanting an advance directive, similar to what is in the Yukon Care Consent Act for end of life that exists right now.
In summary, a majority of my constituents were in favour of assisted dying. Some were against it, like a woman from the small community of Haines Junction. Of those in favour, a number of them want some of the suggestions that people have talked about here today. Many were in favour of having advance directives. I would say that is the biggest amendment they would like to occur at second reading.
I want to close with a couple of suggestions for the committee to wrestle with. First is the advance directives. If people have a debilitating disease, they have to give informed consent at the very last minute, but they may not be able to, as they might not be in condition to do so, so it defeats the whole purpose. Perhaps it should be allowed only for those who are not capable at the last minute so that, as has occurred in the past, people with advance directives who in the end did not want them carried out are not taken advantage of.
The second biggest suggestion was related to the description of foreseeable future. On one side it may provide the flexibility that people want to make the right decision at the right time. On the other hand, it may not be enough definition. Medical workers want more definition, so they are not caught on the wrong side of a criminal law suit.
I had a student ask me an interesting question: what if a person suffering from an insufferable physical disease also has a mental illness and therefore could not give the informed consent? I am glad the committee will further study mental illness. I had a number of people suggest that mental health, Alzheimer's, and even mature youth need to be dealt with.
I want to thank my constituents and members of the House for this very non-partisan, thoughtful debate on this life-and-death situation for all of us. Hopefully, in the end we will find the combination that gives the most peace to the most Canadians.