Get the facts on assisted dying

Physician assisted dying is a safe, compassionate choice for individuals facing the prospect of a horrific death.

But don’t take our word for it. Get the facts on end-of-life choice and decide for yourself. 

Allowing assisted dying respects a patient's right to choose. The Supreme Court struck down the laws forbidding physician assisted dying because they unfairly restricted individual choice. Access to aid in dying will give Canadians further control over their care and, ultimately, their lives.

Canadians want choice. More than eight in 10 Canadians support physician assisted dying. Commissioned by DWD Canada, a 2014 Ipsos Reid poll opinion poll showed that 84 per cent of Canadians believe gravely ill patients should have the right to end their lives with the help of a doctor.

Making assisted dying illegal doesn’t stop it. Each year, a handful of gravely ill Canadians travel to Switzerland for a medically assisted death. The cost — $20,000 to $30,000 when you account for flights and accommodation — puts this option out of reach for most Canadians.

At home, laws banning assisted dying and voluntary euthanasia have led Canadians with catastrophic diagnoses to end their own lives, sometimes violently and often prematurely. These tragedies devastate families and scar first responders. It’s time to stop this unnecessary trauma.

The safeguards work. We can provide choice for competent Canadians and protect the most vulnerable members of our society. International research has repeatedly concluded that legalized assisted dying doesn’t threaten vulnerable groups such as children, the very elderly, the poor, people with disabilities and the mentally ill. This conclusion was upheld by the Supreme Courts of B.C. and was a key factor in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to decriminalize physician assisted dying.

Palliative care is not enough. Palliative care is critical, but alone it is not enough. In Oregon, nine in 10 people who used that state's Dying with Dignity legislation were enrolled in a hospice program. That’s because there is some suffering only death can end.

Assisted dying doesn’t hurt palliative care. Jurisdictions where end-of-life choice is legal are often global leaders in end-of-life care. Oregon, Washington and Vermont were the first American states to legalize assisted dying. They also lead the U.S. in terms of access to palliative care.

Access to assisted dying can actually lead to improved end-of-life care. A recent study in the medical journal Health Care shows investment in palliative care in the Netherlands took off after the Dutch government passed a historic assisted dying bill in 2002. Both Belgium and Quebec tied legalization of PAD to increased funding for palliative care.

Physician assisted dying is good for end-of-life healthcare. In places where assisted dying is legal, doctors are more likely to discuss end-of-life care with patients and their families.

Legal choice in dying also forces doctors to learn more about a broad range of end-of-life options. After Oregon passed a Dying with Dignity bill in 1997, the state embarked on a campaign to teach physicians how to care for patients at end of life. Five years later, a team of experts interviewed social workers and hospice caregivers to gauge how doctors were doing. “Most respondents rated Oregon physicians as showing improvements in knowledge and willingness to refer and care for hospice patients,” the authors reported.

Offering physician assisted dying is all about compassion. Forcing Canadians to endure unwanted, intolerable suffering is inhumane and wrong. As a compassionate society, we must offer information and choices to those who face the prospect of a horrific death.