Kyle Seeback, Member of Parliament for Dufferin-Caledon, rose in the House of Commons on February 27, 2020, to speak on Bill C-7: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), tabled by the current Liberal government on February 24, 2020.
“If we have this four-month extension and have the mandated review of the legislation scheduled in June, what is the rush?,” one of several concerns raised by Mr. Seeback. He continued, “My understanding is that there was only about two weeks of public consultation for this legislation. In my opinion, that is woefully deficient given the gravity of the topic we are discussing today.”
The proposed legislation repeals the requirement that the patient’s death must be ‘reasonably foreseeable,’ but requires patients to still have a ‘grievous and irremediable medical condition.’ On September 11, 2019, the Superior Court of Quebec found (Truchon v. Attorney General of Canada) that it was unconstitutional to limit access to medical assistance in dying (MAID) to people nearing the end of life. The Court’s ruling will come into effect on March 11, 2020, unless an extension is granted by the Court.
“The next thing I want to talk about is palliative care,” Mr. Seeback stated. “The minister has made comments in the House today espousing the great investments that are being made by the government in health care, but has not really talked about any specific investments with respect to palliative care.”
Mr. Seeback reminded the House and the Minister that Bill C-277, An Act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada, was passed in the previous Parliament in 2017, which preamble includes: ‘Whereas the Final Report stated that a request for physician-assisted death cannot be truly voluntary if the option of proper palliative care is not available to alleviate a person’s suffering.’
He continued, “This was passed by Parliament, so if we are looking to expand the scope of medically assisted death without also expanding the availability of palliative care, we are doing an incredible disservice to Canadians because the availability of palliative care in this country is poor at best.”
Mr. Seeback referenced his own personal experiences with the limited availability of palliative care resources when both of his parents were suffering with terminal illness. He also referenced the outstanding services provided by Bethell Hospice, located in his riding of Dufferin-Caledon, a facility which has 10 beds for a population of 130,000 people, underscoring the need for increased investments in palliative care. It also demonstrates that for those who cannot access palliative care, a medically assisted death may appear as a far more attractive option.
“When people do not have the option for proper palliative care, their consent for a medically assisted death is significantly in question. I am extraordinarily concerned by the lack of any plan by the government to deal with investments in palliative care,” said Mr. Seeback.