DWD Canada, BC Civil Liberties release 'Blueprint for Leadership' on assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada and the BC Civil Liberties Association have released an open letter outlining the steps Canadian decision-makers need to take to ensure equitable, safe and timely access to physician assisted dying.

Entitled “A Blueprint for Leadership on Assisted Dying,” the document lays out the actions each governmental and regulatory stakeholder must take to ensure patients experiencing intolerable, incurable suffering will be able to exercise their right to die with dignity with the help a doctor by Feb. 6, 2016, when the Supreme Court’s decision in Carter v Canada is set to come into effect.

“For the past nine months, we have not seen a coordinated response to the Supreme Court’s resounding decision on assisted dying,” said DWD Canada CEO Wanda Morris. “Instead, we’ve seen a series of delays and a mish-mash of overlapping or conflicting public consultations. It’s time for our leaders to work together to ensure that Canadian patients have choice in the face of excruciating suffering.”

“Our blueprint clearly lays out what the major stakeholders in our healthcare system can do now to ensure that Canadians do not have to endure unwanted suffering beyond February 6,” she said. “It’s unacceptable to force desperately ill Canadians to wait longer to realize their right to die in peace and dignity.”

On Feb. 6, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously to strike down the country’s Criminal Code ban on physician assisted dying, arguing the decades-old prohibition violated Canadians’ Charter rights. In its ruling, the high court set out eligibility criteria and gave Ottawa and the provinces 12 months to prepare for the decision to come into effect.

Neither the federal government nor the provinces, except for Quebec, have passed new laws on physician assisted dying.

On Thursday, Morris repeated her call for the incoming Liberal government to rule out asking the Supreme Court for more time to respond to its decision. A delay is unnecessary, she said, because the ruling didn’t require federal or provincial lawmakers to pass new legislation, and the provincial regulators are already at work creating safeguards for physician-assisted death.

“If each stakeholder involved recognizes their responsibilities and strengths, then preparing the country for legal physician assisted dying in time for February 6 is readily achievable,” said Morris. “The justices on the Supreme Court demonstrated compassion, leadership and cooperation when they made their unanimous ruling on assisted dying. It’s time the rest our decision-makers did the same.” 


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