Canada's House of Commons passes medical assistance in dying bill

ReutersA protester from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition stands outside the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver.

Canada's House of Commons has passed the medical assistance in dying bill that will allow a physician or nurse to administer a substance to a patient to cause his death.

In a vote of 186-137, the House of Commons passed Bill C-14 on third reading on Tuesday. The bill that aims to legalise assisted suicide now heads to the Senate.

Four Liberal MPs voted against the bill, according to LifeSite News.

A mass rally was held Wednesday to protest the bill, which is described by Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Executive Director Alex Schadenberg as "legal cover for murder."

The measure was filed in response to Canada's Supreme Court decision in Febuary 2015 declaring as unconstitutional parts of the Criminal Code which prohibited doctors from assisting patients in their consensual death.

Under the bill, a person may qualify to receive medical assistance in dying if he is at least 18 years old and has terminal disease.

Nine amendments proposed by Alberta Conservative MPs Garnett Genuis and Michael Cooper were rejected.

Genuis' amendments included provisions that individuals seeking assisted suicide or euthanasia be given information on a full range of palliative care options; that the phrase "natural death" be changed to "imminent" death; and that requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide be verified by a competent legal authority.

Opposition MPs criticised Liberals for rejecting the amendments.

"It's extremely disappointing that so many reasonable amendments were presented by opposition and not one of them made it into the bill," said Manitoba MP James Bezan.

Bezan scored the bill's lack of conscience protection, saying that the World Medical Association has condemned euthanasia and assisted suicide as unethical.

"I do not believe we should institute physician-assisted suicide," Bezan said. "Expanding palliative care is by far the better option... As someone with very strong Christian values, I cannot support Bill C-14."

NDP MP Murray Rankin said Alberta and Ontario courts recently ruled against the federal government's approach, which restricts eligibility to euthanasia or assisted suicide to an individual who is suffering from an "incurable" disease, illness or disability, "in an irreversible state of decline" and whose "natural death is reasonably foreseeable."

Manitoba Tory MP Ted Falk batted for palliative care instead of the assisted suicide approach.

"When there is proper palliative care available, the need for assisted suicide just about falls down to nil," he said.