DWD Canada welcomes new Ontario-led panel on assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada is applauding the leaders of Canada’s provinces and territories for promising a patient-centred approach to studying the future of physician assisted dying in this country.

On Friday, the Government of Ontario announced that it, along with 11 other provinces and territories, had established their own expert panel to investigate possible legislative responses to the Supreme Court’s February decision in Carter v. Canada.

The expert panel features bioethicists, researchers and healthcare executives from across the country and will complement the work of the federal government’s consultation on assisted dying. In a news release sent out Friday, Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said the panel will “focus on the needs of patients and their families.”

“We are delighted to see the provinces take comprehensive and compassionate leadership on this critical human rights issue,” said Wanda Morris, CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada. “It is very refreshing to see movement from government leaders that puts the needs and concerns of patients first. We are confident the 84 per cent of Canadians who support the right to die with dignity will be able to make their voices heard.”

She also commended the balanced makeup of the panel, which will be co-chaired by University of Toronto bioethicist Dr. Jennifer Gibson and Maureen Taylor, a medical journalist and physician assistant in infectious diseases. Morris has expressed DWD Canada’s concerns about the composition of Ottawa’s external panel on assisted dying. Two of the three federal panelists, including chair Dr. Harvey Chochinov, have spoken out in court against the right to physician assisted dying.

“We are excited to learn more about the provincial panelists and the contributions each of them will bring to the table,” said Morris. “We are especially pleased that Maureen Taylor will serve as co-chair. As the widow of Dr. Donald Low, she has first-hand experience of the brutal, unnecessary suffering that can occur when physician assisted dying is not accessible.”

The announcement of the provincial panel comes six months after the Supreme Court of Canada released its ruling in Carter v. Canada, which established eligibility criteria for who can access physician assisted dying and gave elected officials one year to craft new laws that comply with the constitution. DWD Canada, Morris said, is hopeful the striking of the provincial panel will allow for legislation to be tabled in a timely manner.

“A delay in passing fair and just laws will only prolong needless and unwanted suffering,” said Morris. “Thousands of gravely ill Canadians can’t afford to wait for clarity about whether their right to a peaceful death will be respected

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