Marilyn Gladu, MP for Sarnia-Lambton spoke on May 31, 2016 at a press conference for her private member’s bill,
Bill C-277, “an act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada.” This timely bill comes in response to the lack of palliative care available in Canada and the lack of any palliative care provisions in government’s C-14 euthanasia legislation which is moving quickly through Parliament. This Private Member’s bill emphasizes the Liberal government’s commitment to the “importance of extending access to palliative care to all Canadians in the context of physician-assisted death.” With that in mind, Bill C-277, instructs the ministry of health to work with palliative care professionals and provincial leaders in health to apply national palliative care standards.
At the press conference Miss Gladu emphasized how there are only 200 hospices across Canada. Such a low number signifies the need for universal palliative care options. The framework provided in this bill would provide a definition for palliative care, identify the training needed for palliative care professionals, ensure consistent access to palliative care in Canada and consider amending the Canada Health Act to include palliative care as a guaranteed healthcare option. Additionally, the act would outline periodical report releases from the Minister of Health, highlighting any concerns or recommendations for the framework of palliative care. These several initiatives are very similar to ARPA’s emphasis on the need of providing palliative care as a third option for those who are suffering from irremediable terminal illnesses.
The first reading of this bill will not be delivered until the fall, making it difficult to predict what the opinions of the Liberals or NDP will be in relation to its goals. Both parties definitely shot down a proposed amendment on May 30 which stated, “prior to making the request, they consulted a medical practitioner regarding palliative care options and were informed of the full range of options.” In light of this it appears the Liberals in particular are inconsistent with their opinions on palliative care making it unforeseeable how they might approach Bill C-277.
James Schutten, a man who suffers with spinal muscular atrophy, was one of the ARPA witnesses who presented in front of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. In his speech he expressed his feelings that if the Supreme Court enable a right to die, they should also provide a right to live through palliative care. James, along with other disabled individuals feel that the absence of palliative care and the presence of euthanasia, tells them that they should choose to die. Bill C-277 provides a third option framework which would benefit many sick and disabled Canadians who are not yet ready to give up on life.