Shelley Birenbaum

Shelley Birenbaum is a health law lawyer called to the Ontario bar for 30 years. Her practise includes health regulatory opinions, privacy and research ethics, corporate governance, by-law reviews, policy development, policy reviews, creating agreements, negotiations and risk management.

Sample projects are program integrations, applications for registry status, supportive housing collaborations and shared electronic health records. Clients include hospitals, community mental health agencies, supportive housing providers, research centres, private clinics/health teams and health care practitioners. Shelley worked at three large Toronto law firms, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and is President of Shelley R. Birenbaum Professional Corporation, a health law firm. Shelley has her Masters of Social Work and practised as a social worker before becoming a lawyer. She recently obtained her Master of Bioethics at University of Pennsylvania.

Shelley is an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association – Health Law Section (CBA) and member of the CBA End of Life Working Group, CBA Children’s Law Committee, a past participant in the National Advance Care Planning Working Group of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, a former Board Director at Jewish Family and Child Services and Member of the Health Canada Research Ethics Board. Shelley is particularly interested in the legal and ethical aspects of assisted dying and assisted human reproduction, and her practice merges health law and bioethics. 

Viewpoint:

I have been actively involved with Dying With Dignity Canada since 2013 as a volunteer, speaker, donor, Toronto Chapter member, and now, as Chair of the newly formed Legal Advisory Committee. I have, however, known about the incredible work of DWDC for over 30 years through my parents, who were not afraid to talk with their children about death and their wishes for end of life. With the help of DWDC, my parents filled out their living wills many years ago. I am thankful that my parents are still very much a part of my life and active with DWDC.

I am firmly committed to autonomy and honouring individuals’ wishes for end of life care. I believe in advance care planning and for many years was a member of the National Working Group on Advance Care Planning. In addition, I am a member of the Canadian Bar Association’s End of Life Working Group and have written and supported five resolutions of the CBA that furthered the agenda for medical assistance in dying and end of life planning. The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter was one of the highlights of my life, and I was honoured to be at DWDC when the decision was announced.