A Waterloo Region MP calls efforts by the Liberal federal government to forge a response to the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling on doctor-assisted death "a slippery slope that we will regret."
Harold Albrecht, the Conservative MP for Kitchener-Conestoga, made the comments Tuesday on CBC Radio's The Morning Edition, as a committee of lawmakers assembled by the federal Liberal government struggles with the divisive question of how to legislate the right to die.
"The right to die unfortunately could lead to your duty to die through tacit pressure from your relatives or the medical community to save money," Albrecht told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Tuesday.
"I think it will be no surprise to your listeners that I have been a champion of suicide prevention," Albrecht said. "So for me to open that door to the possibility of ending human life prematurely I think is a slippery slope that we will regret."
Palliative care needs to be explored
The federal Liberal government has been given four months by the Supreme Court of Canada to come up with up with legislation on assisted dying after a 5-4 ruling on January 15, rather than the six months the government had asked for.
The court also ruled that Quebec's assisted dying law, which came into effect in December, can remain in effect.
The ruling came on the same day that a patient in Quebec City died with the assistance of a doctor in a Canadian legal first.
Albrecht says while he's glad the country's top court has granted the government an extension, he worries it will not give lawmakers enough time to study all of the options, including improved access to palliative care services.
'Canada needs to do a better job'
"To me, it makes far more sense to have palliative care included in our healthcare system than it does many of the other medical procedures that we're currently funding," Albrecht said.
"If we have a good palliative care system in Canada it's my opinion that there will be almost no need to even consider the option of physician-assisted suicide."
Albrecht, who sits on the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care, has studied the topic of end of life care at length as an MP.
"Canada needs to do a better job," he said. "I would say less than 50 per cent of Canadians who really do need palliative care are availing themselves of that, it's just not available."
"It was very clear at that point that the level of palliative care in Canada is, at best, very weak."