Tory MP Steven Fletcher hails ‘momentous’ decision
OTTAWA—Conservative MP Steven Fletcher cheered Friday’s Supreme Court ruling as “momentous” and said he hopes his own private member’s bill on physician-assisted death points the way for Parliament’s next steps on the issue.
“We now have direction for our parliamentarians to reflect what the vast majority of Canadians already believe, that dying with dignity, physician-assisted death, should be allowed in certain circumstances,” Fletcher told reporters in the foyer of the Supreme Court.
“This ruling will, I believe, reduce suffering. It will allow people to actually live longer because they will actually have the peace of mind that they are not going to have a horrible death,” Fletcher said.
Friday’s ruling overturned the existing law on assisted suicide, declaring that informed adults suffering “grievous and irremediable medical conditions” should have the option of a physician-assisted death if they choose.
The court gave Parliament a year to craft a new law if it chooses; if the government refuses, the decision would allow physician-assisted suicides within the criteria set out by the ruling.
Fletcher said he’s encouraged that the court’s recommendations are similar to the intent of his own bill, which he introduced almost a year ago. That bill would allow physicians to assist patients suffering “intolerable” physical or psychological conditions to end their lives.
Fletcher said there needs to be a Criminal Code provision to avoid what he called “abuse” and said his own bill could be used as a “foundation” for MPs.
He said he would be quite happy to have his bill go to parliamentary committee for discussion and to be put through the “grinder” to ensure “we have the best possible outcome.”
Fletcher noted that if politicians — and Canadians — want to avoid this becoming an issue in the October federal election, Parliament will have to deal with the issue quickly in the months ahead.
“We want to make sure that we move forward quickly but thoughtfully and the Supreme Court has really given us a clear path,” Fletcher said.
“There does seem to be wide consensus amongst the population. I think if it went to a free vote in Parliament, it would pass,” he said.
A second bill proposed by Fletcher would create a commission to collect data on physician-assisted suicides, commission research on the topic and make ongoing recommendations to government.
Fletcher, who represents the Winnipeg riding of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, has been a quadriplegic since his car struck a moose in 1996.
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