Debate on third reading of Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying)

Senator Munson: Honourable senators, tonight I am thinking of the tens of thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands with a degenerative disease. I am thinking of those with Huntington’s, MS, and on a personal note, thinking of those here on Parliament Hill with ALS. They are excluded from this bill. With that in mind and with their rights in mind, I want to say clearly and concisely that as we talk about death, we’re also talking about quality of life. This amendment is about compassion, and it is about human rights. Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Enverga: May I ask you a question, Senator Munson?

Senator Munson: Yes.

Senator Enverga: You mentioned several diseases, Huntington’s, ALS and so many more.

Are they grounds for someone to request assisted dying? Is that what you are saying? Is their quality of life while dealing with those kinds of diseases so poor? Do you think they feel that they are worthless, that they don’t have anything in life left for them? Is that how you perceive why they should die?

Senator Munson: Honourable senator, it’s simply a matter of personal choice. We don’t live inside the bodies of others who have these diseases. We don’t understand and feel the suffering that they are going through. If they do give consent, and there are these safeguards put into place with physicians and others, it is their personal choice. I think that we must respect that.

Senator Enverga: I understand it is their personal choice. However, you were thinking about someone, perhaps, who is a caregiver and cares for them who doesn’t like them or sort of doesn’t respond to them well. Don’t you think that if these people who have these ailments, ALS and Huntington’s, if they have the proper caregiver, somebody to talk to, do you not think that they would refuse to have this death because someone receives their love?

Senator Munson: Honourable senator, they do have the right to life. That is what we would all love to see. We would all love to live a natural, healthy life. However, in this time, living in this country, it is about choice. Whether you live in a rich environment or in a poor environment, at the end of the day, an adult in this country who has the competency to understand what he or she is going through has the right to live, and also has the right to have the dignity of a quiet and dignified death. They have a right to choose their time.

Senator Enverga: Senator Munson, I know they have the right to life, and now they have the right to die. However, don’t you think that if they have the right care they wouldn’t do that? That is not the question, right? It is not palliative care we are talking about here. If we allow this to happen, are you not scared that palliative care will not be there and it will not be given to them because they have choices?

Senator Munson: Honourable senator, the Supreme Court is allowing this to happen. I am confident there are enough safeguards.

No matter what happens at the end of this day, or tomorrow or the next day, one would hope that some amendments are accepted on the other side to show that Parliament does work. At the end of the day, we will still have a bill that will, hopefully, allow every Canadian to make that choice. It’s pretty simple from my perspective.

Some Hon. Senators: Question!

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Enverga, one more.

Senator Enverga: We are talking about safeguards. If we allow this amendment, we are putting the cart before the horse. Let’s open it up, but put the safeguards first before this amendment.

Senator Munson: I will repeat what I said before: The safeguards are there. We are going to have further discussion on so many amendments that will come before us on this issue. This is about a person’s human rights, the right to die in dignity and have the choice to do so or the right to live and have the choice to do so. It is that simple at the end of the day. Thank you.