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Religious Tolerance logo

Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) in
Canada: the Carter v. Canada lawsuit

Part 11 of thirteen parts

2016-FEB:
A federal Government committee
issues 70 page report on PAS (Cont'd).
The report's contents. Reactions.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2016-FEB-25: The All-party committee of Parliament issued a report on assisted suicide (Continued):

The all-party Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying consists of five Senators (from the Senate, which is an appointed body) and 17 Members from the House of Commons (MPs). They represent all of the political parties that have members in Parliament: Conservatives, Greens, Liberals, and New Democratic Party (NDP). They have heard testimony from 61 witnesses and have received over 100 written briefs. The committee issued a 70 page preliminary report which contains 21 recommendations. The text of the report is available online in PDF format. 1

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Some items included in the report:

  • Terminology: The report noted that there are many terms used to discuss physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in current use. Examples are: "euthanasia", "physician-assisted death," "physician-assisted dying," "consensual physician-assisted death," "medical aid in dying," "physician-assisted dying." The committee selected "MAID" ("medical assistance in dying") and recommends that the term be used in any future legislation. 1

  • Eligibility for MAID: The committee has settled on five requirements. An individual must:
    • Experience "a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability)."

    • Be experiencing "enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition...."

    • Give "informed consent for MAID."

    • Have the "capacity to make the decision ... at the time of either the advance or contemporaneous request."

and:

    • Be insured persons eligible for publicly funded health care services in Canada." 1

  • Safeguards are built into the MAID process: They include:
    • "Two independent doctors must conclude that a person is eligible."

    • "A request for MAID must be in writing and witnessed by two independent witnesses."

    • "A waiting period is required ... as determined by the patient's attending physician."

    • "Annual reports analyzing MAID cases are to be tabled in Parliament." and

    • "Support and services, including culturally and spiritually appropriate end-of-life care services for Indigenous patients, should be improved to ensure that requests are based on free choice, particularly for vulnerable people." 1

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Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould's (Liberal) remarks;

She indicated that the Government Cabinet would be reviewing the recommendations. She said that:

"We’re looking to ensure that we continue to take an empathetic approach, that we look to create balance in our approach that recognizes the autonomy of individuals, that recognizes the need to protect the vulnerable, [and] that respects the conscience rights of medical practitioners. That will take a little bit of time." 2,3

When asked about suffering people who have mental illnesses and/or are mature minors, she responded:

"I, like everybody else, have ... [my] own personal views on this, and all personal views are going to necessarily need to be considered in this dialogue and debate." 3

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Reactions outside of the federal Government to the Committee report:

  • General reactions:
    • There is a high level of controversy and conflict about physician assisted suicide. Everyone involved in the implementation of the "Carter"decision has empathy for suffering MAID applicants. The latter are often experiencing a terminal illness, are in extreme pain and/or serious disability, want to end their life, but need help to commit suicide. Most commentators promote safeguards that would detect patients who are depressed and have them treated with anti-depressant medication instead of offering them help in dying.

    • However, the remedies that are offered differ widely between liberals and conservatives, as shown in the examples below.
  • The National Catholic Reporter is an independent Roman Catholic "voice for Catholics and people of faith." They are headquartered in Missouri, and have a newspaper and web site. They reacted negatively to the Committee's recommendations:
  • "The parliamentary report recommends allowing physician-assisted suicide for people with psychiatric conditions, opens the way for children younger than 18 to be euthanized, allows for advanced directives so non competent people can be euthanized provided they [earlier] made the directive when [they were] competent, and recommends that physicians who object to assisted suicide be forced to make a referral for such action when requested. It also recommends all health facilities that receive public funding provide physician-assisted death." 4

Many hospitals in Canada are run by the Catholic Church.

  • Dying with Dignity Canada responded positively by praising the Special Joint Committee:

    "... members for their hard work and for laying out a roadmap to a national framework for physician-assisted dying." 5

    CEO Shanaaz Gokool commented:

    "We thank the MPs and senators on this committee for their swift but thoughtful work on this extremely important issue. Their recommendations embrace the spirit of the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Carter v. Canada and should serve as the basis for new legislation on assisted dying. ..."

    "Patients deserve real choice. Without the option to consent in advance to assisted dying, Canadians with dementia who want to die in peace with the help of a physician face a dire choice: access assisted dying prematurely, while they are still competent; or risk losing competence before their wishes can be carried out, only to be condemned to the exact fate they sought to avoid. ...”

    "Unless taxpayer-funded healthcare facilities are required to allow aid in dying on-site, then terminally ill patients in many regions of the country will effectively be denied their right to die with the help of a doctor. ..." 5

    "Make no mistake: these recommendations are an excellent start, but we aren’t there yet."

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Medical assistance in dying: A patient-centred approach,"Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, 2016-FEB, at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/
  2. "Canadian bishops blast Parliamentary report’s embrace of 'state-sponsored killing'," LifeSiteNews.com, 2016-FEB-29, at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/
  3. Ian " Macleod, "Doctor-assisted death report called ‘radical and dangerous’ by some Conservative committee members," Ottawa Citizen, 2016-FEB-26. at: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/
  4. "Canadian report recommends widening access to physician-assisted suicide," National Catholic Reporter, 2016-FEB-26, at: http://ncronline.org/
  5. "Dying With Dignity Canada cheers Joint Committee's recommendations on assisted dying," Dying with Dignity Canada. 20160FEB-25, at: http://www.dyingwithdignity.ca/

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics  > Assisted Suicide > Canada > here

or: Home page > "Hot" topics  > Suicide menu > Assisted Suicide> Canada > here

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Copyright © 2016, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-MAR-02
Latest update: 2016-MAR-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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