Whose right to a peaceful death is at risk if the Liberal government’s assisted dying bill is passed without amendments?
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Dying With Dignity Canada CEO Shanaaz Gokool attempted to answer this troubling question during her impassioned testimony Tuesday to the members of Parliament’s House Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The committee is currently holding hearings into Bill C-14 and studying possible amendments that could be made to the legislation.
Of greatest concern to DWDC is the unfairly restrictive nature of the bill, which limits access to assistance in dying to only those desperately ill Canadians whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable” and are in an “advanced state of irreversible decline in capability.”
These rules, Gokool told the committee, do not meet the minimum eligibility criteria laid out in the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Carter v. Canada and will exclude individuals who have excruciating chronic illnesses, but are not dying, from rightful access to medically assisted dying.
“If Carter is the floor for assisted dying, we are now in the basement,” she said.
In addition, Gokool said the bill fails Canadians facing a dementia diagnosis who want to make advance requests for assisted dying, but won’t be able to if the legislation is passed as is.
In her eight-minute presentation, Gokool presented personal stories of individuals who suffered terrible and in some cases untimely deaths because they were denied rightful access to assistance in dying — and would not be eligible under the rules set forward in Bill C-14. She held up pictures of people like B.C.’s Gillian Bennett, who ended her own life in 2014, while she was still competent, to avoid the ravages of advanced dementia, and Drew Sperry, a Dartmouth, N.S., architect who, in the words of his wife, Sheilia, died in 2012 “gasping like a fish on a wharf” eight years after being diagnosed with ALS.
Hear her powerful testimony by watching the video below. And if you'd like to learn more about what amendments DWDC wants made to the bill, read our official submission to the House Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.