Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I too would like to express my support for Mr. Manly's amendment. I believe it is very reasonable and, in some respects, a modest amendment.
We heard over and over again from witnesses, particularly those representing persons with disabilities, of the inadequacy of the provision, in the context of where death is not reasonably foreseeable, to merely inform a patient of alternatives. To merely inform a patient without requiring them to seek any alternatives or without any guarantee of seeing that they have access to those alternatives puts vulnerable people at risk, vulnerable people who are often in their most vulnerable state upon making a request for medical assistance in dying.
I would note that the minister has often said, and others have said, that when someone makes a request for medical assistance in dying, they have long thought through the process and it's therefore somehow important that it be expedited, which I don't quite understand. When we're speaking about where death is not reasonably foreseeable, it opens the door to persons who might have had an accident or a traumatic event or a diagnosis that causes them to have their life literally turned upside down. We heard evidence of suicidal ideation, particularly in circumstances where people have bad news or where they are experiencing significant pain and suffering, without having an opportunity to identify or determine what possible treatments might be available to them.
I would note that Dr. Catherine Ferrier appeared before this committee. I'm going to read this into the record because I think it's important in the context of this motion. She is a physician who has worked since 1984 in the geriatric clinic at McGill University Health Centre. She noted in her testimony that:
The suicide rate after traumatic spinal cord injury is [five] times that of the general population for five years. Those who choose suicide may not [have a diagnosable depression] or [be] incapable of decision-making. Their options have been tragically narrowed, and it takes a long time to readjust, but people do. After five years, the rate is the same as that of the general population. They need protection from their despair. That's why our society responds to suicidal desires with prevention. That's why [it makes no sense to] allow MAID after 90 days [for people who are not near the end of life].
She objects to the 90-day period. One can debate that. I, too, don't agree with the 90-day period. With respect to Mr. Manly's amendment, I've cited one example, but there are many other examples of people who suffer from a disease or illness who have much higher suicide rates until after a period of time when they can adjust. It speaks, therefore, to the importance of the amendment, to not just provide information but to see that they can get appropriate consultations.
I would note that this amendment is consistent in some ways with what was said in the final report of the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada.
That report, which was very important when we were giving consideration to Bill C-14, said “a request for a physician-assisted death cannot be truly voluntary if the option of proper palliative care is not available to alleviate a person's suffering.” Surely someone should, at the very least, be required to go through a consultation in circumstances where death is not reasonably foreseeable.
I would note that Canada, by going down this road, would be an outlier in the world. We would have, arguably, the most permissive regime in the world. I would note that in the Netherlands, for example, a physician must confirm that there are no other potential means to relieve suffering before administering medical assistance in dying to a patient. Here we would provide merely information but no obligation to ensure that the person could truly make an informed decision. You can't make a truly informed decision and you can't exercise your autonomy if the choice is simply intolerable suffering versus medical assistance in dying.
I believe that Mr. Manly's amendment, for all of those reasons, makes sense.
I will say I find it troubling that when we have heard from 72 national organizations representing persons with disabilities and the rights of persons with disabilities, when we have heard concerns expressed by the UN special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities and when we have heard questions asked about Canada's compliance with its international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including article 10, that the members on the government side have given short shrift to all of those concerns. I would just—