As a supporter of assisted dying, Lucy in September 2015 sponsored a Private Members Bill that would have allowed for assisted dying for those with terminal diseases but only with strong safeguards in place. Unfortunately the bill was defeated 330 -118 at the second reading stage in the House of Commons. Despite this defeat, Lucy remains supportive of the concept and is pleased to see the Canadian Government bringing forward legislation.
The Canadian Government is bringing forward legalisation after Canada’s Supreme Court in February 2015 found that the country’s existing law on assisted dying could not be justified in line with individuals’ human rights. As such the current blanket prohibition on assisted dying (similar to that of England Wales) was struck down and the Government given a deadline of 6 June in which to come up with a new law.
The proposals being brought forward by the Canadian government go beyond what has previously been proposed in the UK. The Canadian proposals have a wider eligibility than what is currently allowed in some US States (Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana and soon California), but not as wide as the laws in place in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The new Canadian laws would allow a mentally competent adult with an illness, disease or disability who was suffering unbearably and whose death was “reasonably foreseeable” to request either an assisted death or euthanasia.
The safeguarding process proposed would be similar to the USA’s, where a person would be required to get approval from two independent medical practitioners, physicians or nurse practitioners. This would include a mandatory period for reflecting on the decision, which could be exceptionally shortened where death or significant deterioration was imminent. Only people who are eligible for government-funded medical treatment in Canada will be able to make use of the law; there will be no possibility for what some have referred to as ‘suicide tourism’.
As a highly developed, English speaking, Commonwealth country with a substantial population and free healthcare, the law change in Canada could offer valuable insight into how such a law could operate in the UK. Canada itself will carry out a mandatory review 5 years after its introduction.
Commenting on the proposed Canadian law, Lucy said: “It is encouraging to see Canada taking this bold step and I fully support the proposals being brought forward.
“As a country with many parallels to our own it be will interesting to see the impact this law has on Canadian society and if the UK will be able to learn from Canada’s experience.
“I remain fully committed to seeing an assisted dying law being introduced in the UK. Such a law would give people a choice without recrimination for others. Any assisted dying laws would need appropriate safeguards to prevent potential abuses.”