Lawmakers in Ontario are currently debating Bill 84, a piece of legislation that, if approved, would make changes to the way assisted dying is managed in the province.
As of the end of March, the bill is being reviewed by the MPPs who are members of the Ontario Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. The committee will have the opportunity to propose changes to the bill before it goes back to the legislative assembly for a final vote.
- Related: Proposed Ontario rules would limit transparency around assisted dying
- Raise your voice: Tell your MPP to speak out for fair provincial rules for assisted dying
- Download: DWDC's official submission on Ontario's Bill 84 (PDF)
- Read the full text of Bill 84, the Medical Assistance in Dying Statute Law Amendment Act
The committee has been accepting Ontarians’ feedback on Bill 84 and held two days of public meetings to hear stakeholders’ concerns about the legislation. In addition to encouraging our supporters to send letters to the committee, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) delivered a presentation to the committee on March 23 and submitted its finalized written submission a week later.
In her comments to the committee, DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool urged the committee to adopt a “person-centred” approach to medical assistance in dying (MAID) — to ensure that new rules for MAID break down, rather than impose, unfair barriers to access for suffering Ontarians. To see her presentation (which runs about 14 minutes), watch the video below:
Though not addressed in the bill, one issue in particular has dominated the committee hearings on the proposed legislation: a patient’s right to effective referral. Rules established by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), the province’s medical regulation, require that a physician who objects to assisted dying must refer patients who request it to another physician or agency. A coalition of anti-choice groups have launched a legal challenge against the CPSO’s referral policy. Many of those same players presented to the committee in March, arguing that doctors who object to assisted dying should not be required to provide an effective referral to individuals who request MAID.
DWDC has been vocal in its support of the CPSO’s referral policy, a position that Gokool echoed in her presentation to MPPs. “We believe that the MAID policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario strikes a fair and compassionate balance by requiring physicians who object to provide a referral for MAID-related services,” she said. “Without this policy, people may be delayed and forced to endure more unnecessary suffering. They may lose capacity during that delay and ultimately, therefore, lose their right to an assisted death. Or we’re simply never going to know who they are — the unfortunate ones who aren’t able [to find a provider who is willing to handle their request].
“In Ontario, we can do better than that.”