WINNIPEG, Manitoba, May 28 (UPI) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is “hopeful” Parliament will pass a new bill allowing physician-assisted suicide before the previous law permitting the practice expires.
The deadline, which was reaffirmed by the Canadian Supreme Court, expires June 6.
Trudeau, speaking at the final day of the biennial Liberal Party Convention, said the law is needed to give doctors and hospitals clarity in dealing with terminally ill patients.
“There will be people who by many objective criteria should have access to medical assistance in dying will not be able to because practitioners will be concerned there isn’t any legal framework or protection for them,” Trudeau told reporters Saturday. “And perhaps other people in different areas of the country who will have access to it when again according to fairly objective criteria, they should not have access to medical assistance in dying.”
The issue has drawn passionate and personal debate on both sides in Canada. Trudeau himself landed in hot water after he was accused of “manhandling” opposition members of Parliament prior to a vote on the topic in the House of Commons. Trudeau could be seen grabbing an opposition lawmaker by the arm and he elbowed a female MP he didn’t see standing behind him during the exchange.
Those on both sides of the debate have questioned whether the new legislation would be considered unconstitutional, either because it is too restrictive or too lax.
Trudeau said he believed the government “got that balance right.”
In the landmark Canadian Supreme Court case Carter v. Canada, the High Court last year struck down laws criminalizing physician-assisted suicide for individuals in chronic pain or with terminal illnesses. The new legislation limits physician-assisted suicide to individuals with terminal diseases whose death is reasonably foreseeable.
The lawyer who won the Carter decision criticized the law because it limits physician-assisted suicide to only those who are already dying.
Joe Arvay, a paraplegic, said the law treats disabled people “as children, incapable of agency and autonomy.”
Trudeau’s Liberal government drafted the legislation and the House of Commons is scheduled to take up the matter Monday after returning from a week’s recess.
“I am still hopeful that we’re going to be able to reach the June 6 deadline imposed by the Supreme Court,” he said. “We’re certainly working hard towards that. And I have confidence that the more independent and thoughtful Senate is going to do right by the responsibilities that Canadians expect it to.”