Parksville man unhappy federal Liberals seeking extension on doctor-assisted death laws

'I could write it in a day, even the legal part of it,' says Bill Martin

Bill Martin says he doesn’t understand why the federal government has asked the Supreme Court for a six-month extension to draft new laws on doctor-assisted dying.

The 87-year-old Parksville resident doesn’t believe crafting the new legislation would be too difficult.

“I don’t know why (the delay),” said Martin, who suffers from spinal degeneration and has advocated for medically-assisted death for more than 50 years. “I could write it (new legislation) in a day, even the legal part of it.”

In February of 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadians with unbearable suffering should be allowed to end their lives with the aid of a physician and it gave Parliament one year to enact new laws. In December of 2015, the new Liberal government, through Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould (MP for Vancouver-Granville), asked the high court for a six-month extension.

“A comprehensive response to the court’s judgment raises important and complex issues which require extensive work by Parliament and provincial legislatures, and can not reasonably be completed before Feb. 6, 2016,” said the 73-page document filed with the court by the A-G.

“That’s terrible,” said Martin. “If they get the six months, it shows they don’t care.” Martin said, if legalized, he would “absolutely” consider using medically assisted death sometime in the future. He is not alone. A poll conducted in 2014 by Dying With Dignity suggests 84 per cent of Canadians support the idea of medically assisted death for terminally ill patients suffering from unbearable pain.

The Ipsos-Reid survey was based on a sample size of 2,500 Canadians.

Wilson-Raybould said that while it is true that an extension of the suspension will mean that some Canadians will have to wait to access physician-assisted dying, it is necessary and responsible to ensure that sufficient protections are in place across the entire country.

“Physician-assisted dying is a complex and deeply personal issue for Canadians of all ages and backgrounds,” Wilson-Raybould said Dec. 3, 2015. “The federal government’s response will affect all of society. That is why we are firmly committed to including Canadians and taking the time to develop a thoughtful, sensitive, and well-informed response. We recognize both a person’s right to make fundamental decisions about his or her life and the need to protect those who are vulnerable.”

Statistics Canada shows Parksville’s median age is 58.2, while Qualicum Beach’s median age is 63.9, making the latter notorious for being the oldest community in Canada.

Parksville’s Martin was asked this week how he was doing since he last spoke with The NEWS about 14 months ago.

“I’m surviving,” he said, “with lots of medication.”

— With files from Candace Wu

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