Hon. John Bosley (Don Valley West):
Mr. Speaker, I do not participate in a lot of debates any more unless something comes along that I regard personally as extraordinarily important. I want to speak to this today.
I want to congratulate the mover of the motion and the committee on motions that chose to make this a votable motion. I think it is an extraordinarily important item.
My friend the chairman of the justice committee has just spoken and indicated he would be voting against this motion. Let me be clear. I will be voting for this motion, perhaps not for the reasons that my long-time colleague,
Private Members' Business
the hon. member for Parkdale-High Park, has given in the stirring and moving stories of experiences he has had. I suppose we all can.
My wife if she were here would tell the story of her father and his palliative care experiences and how that made the end of his life a much more extraordinarily happy experience than it might otherwise have been. She probably would not be for this for many other reasons that others have spoken on.
I will never forget my mother's pleading to kill her when she was dying of cancer. I do not for a minute think I could ever have done it. However, when I was reading through the clippings on all of this I found the most stirring quote in an article that talked about the pros and cons of the matter before us in terms of primarily the notion of whether a doctor should be able to assist somebody who chooses to die.
One of the questions that was raised precisely in Euthanasia: The Doctors' Dilemma and struck such a chord with me was what if the doctor prescribes higher doses of morphine to kill pain even though a hastened death through respiratory failure is known to be a side effect.
I do not know if the doctor who prescribed the morphine for my mother prescribed such a dosage that it led to her dying sooner. If he did, bless him, because there was nothing being achieved in what she was going through, nothing whatsoever.
For a mother to turn to her son and ask him to put pillows on her face so she would die is something that no son or mother should go through. I listened to the testimony of Sue Rodriguez. Members may say that some day the justice minister will act or that Parliament should wait until the justice minister acts.
I do not think that is ever going to be reasonable to expect. If there was a thing that Parliament should do on its own as members, it is this kind of thing that it must discuss. We must find a way among ourselves to take this completely out of the partisan arena. I welcome the motion for that reason if for no other.
February 26, 1993
Private Members' Business
If we are going to deal with the issues of quality of life they are going to be the hardest issues we are ever going to deal with. They are the ones our people need us to deal with it seems to me. We are well past the issues of quantity of life. We are into the issues of what do you do for a population where we are going to see thousands more cases like my mother and Sue Rodriguez.
We know how to keep people living longer. We know how to make the quantity of life issues produce for us longer, healthier and hopefully happier lives. That means we have to begin to face quality of life questions. This is one of them.
I do not pretend for a minute that I want to be a doctor who would ever want to do what Jack Kevorkian is doing. I could not do it. I know I could not do it. In Dr. Kevorkian's case at least, with the greatest respect for him, if there is a case this morning where he has broken his word and gone back on it then that is awful.
I understood what he was trying to do was to say to people who needed the preparation of a solution that could be dripped through an intravenous tube by flipping a switch when you chose to do so. It is I presume assisting in suicide. It would be in the same way as if my colleague sitting beside me were incapable of getting a glass of water to take the pills he had to end his own life, which is legal. If I went and got that glass of water and put it there for him, would that be the aiding and abetting of a suicide? I suspect it would be.
Should that be a criminal act? Of course not. How can it possibly be imagined that it is reasonable to say to someone who dedicates his life to care giving that when the best care is to aid someone to get out of that misery that it cannot be done? Someone is in a situation which they want out of. You know they want out of it and there is nothing left in their hope. They have no hope left whatsoever and they choose to die. It is a horrible thing. Even if that glass of water created some peace on the way out, I do not know whether I could give it in that circumstance. I know whoever did would be doing a service, as terrible as that is to think.
I will never forget the day when I had to think through all these questions, ever. I suppose we all go through that in our families. We are going to go through it more and more.
Ms. Rodriguez' quotes are all here. We could read them into the record. There is a moving op-ed page she
did. One of the other moving pieces was an article in The Ottawa Citizen quoting a book I had forgotten. It was called Man's Search for Meaning.
Victor Frankl wrote this book having survived the horrors of the Holocaust. He came out of it and talked about the experiences of all those he faced those things with. He said that if there is a purpose in life at all there must be a purpose in suffering and dying. No man can tell the other what this purpose is. Each must find out for himself and must accept the responsibility that his answer prescribes.
It goes on, in effect, to say that one has to choose everything now. We have to choose the way we will live and ultimately we are going to be choosing the way we
die. We recognized that a long time ago when we said that if someone took their life they did not commit a criminal act.
I think the hon. member's motion is about the notion that if somebody assists someone to do something that he or she chooses to do then should that person be criminally liable, as horrible as in some ways people find that? I have had that experience and entirely accept the reaction the member for Parkdale-High Park had in terms of when there is uncertainty about the consequences. I do not debate one moment the notion of whether somebody should end a coma. I do not think that is the issue here and I do not think it is the issue the hon. member is referring to in his motion.
The motion is about when somebody has clearly defined for themselves the course of action. I accept all the questions that the chairman of the justice committee asked and it is entirely appropriate that he should ask them. However, I wish that the justice committee, when confronted with Ms. Rodriguez, had taken on the case and asked the questions there so that it could have defined something that would have allowed us to move as a Parliament, rather than simply pushing it back out and leaving us with only this way of getting the matter to the floor of the House. That is a shame.
I congratulate the member. As emotional as this issue will be for all of us it is the kind of issue we must deal with. I hope we will get on with dealing with those issues because only we can. It must not be left entirely to governments and oppositions. It will not get dealt with that way.
February 26, 1993
Private Members' Business
Topic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS