Dying With Dignity Canada is raising the alarm on Ottawa’s newly announced expert panel on physician assisted dying.
On Friday afternoon, the federal government announced it is launching a national public consultation to engage Canadians about their views on choice in dying. A three-member expert panel has been appointed to review the findings and report back to Parliament.
The makeup of the panel raises major concerns for DWD Canada, the leading organization working to help Canadians avoid unwanted, unnecessary suffering at end of life. Two of the three members of the panel have been outspoken opponents of the right to die with dignity. They have testified in court in favour of keeping the Criminal Code ban on assisted dying, which the Supreme Court later found to be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“We are extremely disappointed that the federal government’s panel is not representative of the 84 per cent of Canadians who support physician assisted dying,” said DWD Canada CEO Wanda Morris. “This is a non-partisan issue and Canadians expect their government to rely on balanced and diverse expert advice.”
Morris also expressed concern about the timing of the announcement. “It is clear the government simply wants this issue to go away,” she said. “They have waited five months to introduce a panel. They announced it late on a Friday afternoon in July. Canadians facing horrible diagnoses deserve better.”
The announcement of the consultation comes nearly five months after the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to decriminalize assisted suicide (by physician-issued prescription) and voluntary euthanasia (when a doctor administers life-ending medication to a consenting patient). The ruling in Carter v. Canada established eligibility criteria for who can access assisted dying and gave elected officials one year, until Feb. 6, 2016, to craft legislation that complies with the constitution.
For more information on the details of the expert panel, go to the Government of Canada's Consultation on Legislative Options for Assisted Dying website.