Pledge to Participate: Voice Your Choice for fair assisted dying access for Canadians with dementia
I believe that Canadians with a diagnosis of dementia or other capacity-eroding conditions should be allowed to make advance requests for assisted dying, so they can have peace of mind as they plan for end of life. I pledge to share my perspective with the independent group of experts the federal government has appointed to review the possible expansion of Canada’s assisted dying law. I will speak out for fair, constitutional assisted dying rules that do not discriminate against whole groups of desperately ill individuals on the basis of their age and/or diagnoses.
Will you sign?
Updated Dec. 14, 2016: The federal government has tapped the Council of Canadians Academies (CCA) to conduct the independent reviews into Bill C-14. Few details are available, but the government says it's not asking the CCA to provide policy recommendations, only a summary of their findings. In addition, it's not clear that the independent reviews will include broad public consultation. These factors suggest the government isn't serious about bringing Canada's assisted dying rules in line with the Charter and the Supreme Court's decision in Carter v. Canada.
But we are serious about it, and our supporters will be mobilizing the government in early 2017 to create terms of reference that would give the reviews more teeth and make the process more open. Studying how to restore the right to a peaceful death for Canadians with dementia and other degenerative conditions must not be treated as a completed academic excercise. The voices of the people affected must not be silenced.
On June 17, 2016, Bill C-14, the federal Liberals’ medical assistance in dying law, was passed through Parliament. Despite the government’s stated commitment to respecting the Charter, their assisted dying law deprives entire groups of severely ill Canadians of their right to a peaceful death. As a result, many prominent legal scholars have called Bill C-14 unconstitutional and warned that it would be very vulnerable if challenged in court.
Bill C-14 provides no peace of mind for Canadians with dementia who want to exercise their right to a peaceful death. Without the option to make advance requests for assisted dying, they face a tragic dilemma: try to access assisted dying too early, while still of sound mind; or risk waiting until it's too late, only to be condemned to the suffering and indignity they sought to avoid. Most, though, will be barred from access entirely, because their suffering while they are still competent won’t be severe enough to satisfy the eligibility criteria laid out in Bill C-14. This discrimination is not acceptable.
Lifting the ban on advance requests for assisted dying would restore choice for thousands of Canadians who want to plan ahead after receiving a catastrophic diagnosis. It’s the just thing to do, and it has the support of eight in 10 Canadians, according to a February 2016 opinion poll commissioned by Dying With Dignity Canada and conducted by Ipsos Reid.
While Bill C-14 denies Canadians with dementia their right to assisted dying, the law’s restrictive eligibility criteria are already coming up for review. According to a rule in Bill C-14, the government has until Dec. 17 to announce an independent study into the possible expansion of assisted dying access to three groups whose rights have been denied under Bill C-14: mature minors; individuals whose primary medical condition is a mental illness; and desperately ill individuals who will continue to be excluded unless the law is changed to allow for advance requests for assisted dying. Health Minister Jane Philpott told a senate committee in November that we can expect an announcement very soon. This represents a critical opportunity for our supporters to speak out against harmful, discriminatory barriers to choice.
Sign the pledge. Act now!
As part of the 80 per cent of Canadians who support the right to advance requests for assisted dying, we must seize this opportunity to speak out for the rights of individuals with dementia and other capacity-eroding conditions. That’s why we’re asking our supporters to sign a pledge to participate — to show the government, and the rest of the country, that we’re serious about building a healthcare system that, once and for all, gives severely ill Canadians the peace of mind they want and deserve. There’s never been a more crucial time for supporters of our movement to speak up and participate.
After you’ve signed the pledge, we’ll reach out again with updates on the independent study and how you can take part. (The study will cover three issues, and could take as long as two years to complete, so there may be more than one opportunity for you to share your thoughts.) In the meantime, don’t forget to share this action with your friends and family, so they can get involved, too. If we are to bring Canada’s assisted dying rules in line with the compassionate, patient-centred values laid out in the Supreme Court’s Carter decision, we’ll need nothing less than a critical mass of Canadians to get the job done.
(Header photo: Adobe Stock/Daxaio Productions)