Newspaper article The Canadian Press

It's Time to Talk about Assisted Suicide: Ontario Health Minister

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

It's Time to Talk about Assisted Suicide: Ontario Health Minister

Article excerpt

Time to talk about assisted suicide: Ontario

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TORONTO - Ontario's health minister says it's time for Canadians and their leaders to talk about assisted suicide, but the federal Conservatives are making it clear that they have no intention of reopening that emotionally charged debate.

"We have no desire to reintroduce legislation that would open this issue up," Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Wednesday.

"There's no denying that this touches a lot of people and it is a very emotional, very personal subject."

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in Canada. But Canadians need to talk about the taboo subject and end-of-life care, said Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews.

"I think it's about the community having the conversation, I think it's about people having the conversation," she said.

The Quebec government has tabled right-to-die legislation, the first of its kind in Canada. But Matthews said it's up to the federal government to decide whether it should legalize assisted suicide.

The issue resurfaced recently after a prominent doctor made an impassioned, videotaped appeal to legalize assisted suicide just a few days before his death.

Dr. Donald Low, who guided Toronto through the 2003 SARS crisis, asked that Canada allow people to die with dignity, eight days before he died from a brain tumour last week at age 68.

"Donald Low's video was very powerful and many people have personally experienced it," Matthews said.

"There are strong opinions on this. I think it's a conversation we need to have."

MacKay said he also saw part of the heart-wrenching video, which was released Tuesday.

"It's an understatement to say these are very complex and emotionally charged issues in every instance," he said.

MacKay said he's talked about it with fellow Conservative Steven Fletcher, who is a quadriplegic and supports assisted suicide.

"He holds a very personal view and a very personal perspective, given what Steven's been through in his life," MacKay said.

"Having said that, it is a very slippery slope when one starts to contemplate the various scenarios and the range of circumstances in which people can find themselves," he said. …

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