This week is a constituency week meaning the House is not sitting as Members of Parliament are back in their ridings before returning to Ottawa next week for just four days until the House rises again for two more constituency weeks before resuming on Monday April 11th. Part of the reason why I oppose the idea of the House of Commons no longer sitting on Fridays is due to the fact that I believe there is an adequate number of constituency weeks to achieve a balance between time in Ottawa and our home ridings as is. I will also raise the concern that by cancelling Fridays, we will eventually see the productivity of Thursday sittings plummet as MPs try to use Thursday as a travel day in order to take advantage of Friday in their ridings. In essence, Thursday will become the new Friday- meaning less votes on Thursday, less regular attendance on Thursday committees and debate in the House of Commons.
For this week’s MP report I would like to re-submit a portion of my MP report from February of 2015. While I seldom re- run a former report, in this instance the topic is one that I know all Canadians take very seriously; that is the subject of Doctor assisted suicide as it relates to a recent Supreme Court ruling. My reason for re-running a segment of my previous report is due to the fact that the riding boundaries have since changed as have our Parliaments over the past year and I believe it is important to hear from citizens in our new riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola on this important subject that will soon be before the House. When I last raised this topic I received a large amount of very sincere and at times heartfelt comments and thoughts. One particular constituent shared a perspective that I believe raises unique and important concerns that I would like to share with citizens for added perspective. The following is an edited excerpt from my Feb. 2015 MP report:
The citizen in question suffers from a very severe physical disability and opposes the legalization of assisted suicide. The reason for this opposition is not based on faith, nor a previous encounter with suicide or hope that a miracle cure will be discovered. The concern from this particular disabled citizen is guilt. As a severely disabled individual, this person relies very heavily on family to serve as specialized care givers. As many will know, providing specialized and end of life care for a severally disabled loved one can be a challenging experience. In this case the constituent who contacted me shared a great love and appreciation for family members in making great sacrifices to help them live a better quality of life.
The concern of this severely disable constituent is that legalized suicide would create an easy option for this person to end their own life with the assistance of a willing doctor. This person expressed a strong will to live. They have no desire to die. Where assisted suicide is a concern to this person is over a profound level of guilt. This guilt comes from the significant ongoing efforts of family members in providing specialized care. As legalized suicide could end the need for that care by not pursuing suicide, this individual would feel intense guilt that they are imposing on loved one’s when another option is available. Suffice to say this was a difficult and emotional conversation and I apologize in advance that I am not relaying this concern in the manner it truly deserves.
I have shared this point again as it illustrates a situation of a severely disabled person who does not wish to die but has admitted the guilt of not pursuing suicide to relieve family members from serving as care givers could potentially result in a reluctant medically assisted suicide. As I commented then, I do not believe this is a situation any Canadian would welcome and is one we should be mindful of in this discussion. As I discovered when I last requested input on this subject, there are other situations and different perspectives in this conversation that are well deserving of consideration. I welcome your views, opinions and experiences. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.