Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Ottawa Should Start Drafting New Law on Assisted Suicide

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Ottawa Should Start Drafting New Law on Assisted Suicide

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Ottawa should start drafting new law on assisted suicide

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Feb. 26:

When Canadians go to the polls later this year they aren't likely to reward Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government for dragging out the process of crafting a new law on physician-assisted suicide. The country needs an updated law, and soon.

After debating the issue for a generation most Canadians, 80 per cent, have come around to the view that desperately suffering people should be entitled to get help ending their lives, within strict limits. And the Supreme Court agrees. On Feb. 6 it struck down Canada's absolute prohibition on assisted suicide as unconstitutional, and gave the government a year to come up with something better.

As the Star has argued and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau recognizes, it's now up to Parliament to craft a new law with some dispatch. Yet Harper continues to play for time, telling Parliament this week that he intends to consult "widely and very comprehensively" with Canadians "of all backgrounds" before responding to the Supreme Court ruling. That doesn't sound like a politician who's in a hurry to grasp the nettle.

See also:Parliament must act quickly on assisted suicide: Editorial

Harper seems more inclined to rag the puck past the Oct. 19 federal election, before committing himself. No doubt he fears alienating his small-c conservative core constituency.

But just how hard does this have to be? And how long do Canadians have to wait for this government to recognize their constitutional rights in this matter? If the Conservative government boots the Supreme Court deadline Canada will be in a legal limbo, doctors will be left groping for guidance and some of the 250,000 Canadians who die every year will suffer cruelly and needlessly.

Unless Harper is prepared to ask the high court for an extension he should show leadership and adopt Trudeau's proposal for a special parliamentary committee that will consult widely starting next month, and come up with a new legal framework by mid-summer before Canadians go to the polls. If that means working through the summer to consult with the public and medical and ethical experts, so be it. …

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