Federal consultation letter-writing toolkit

Use DWD Canada's new letter-writing toolkit to Voice Your Choice to the federal panel on assisted dying.

The best way to ensure your voice is heard is to draft a letter to the federal panel. The toolkit below outlines some suggestions as to how you can make the best of this submission.

You can submit your letter through the panel's online submissions portal, which has a 500-word limit. However, you can upload a text document if you wish to make a longer submission. However you decide to send in your comments, please take an extra moment and copy us at: federalconsultation@dyingwithdignity.ca

If you decide to mail in your letter, please send it to the following address no later than Oct. 1, 2015:

Secretariat to the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada
c/o Department of Justice Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H8

Dear External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada,

Executive summary:

In two or three bullet points, summarize your principle recommendations. Sample starter prompts include:

  • “Canadians deserve a compassionate approach to physician assisted dying…” or
  • “Considerations for safeguards should not become insurmountable barriers for people who are suffering intolerably from grievous and irremediable medical conditions…” or
  •  “I found the questions in your online survey troubling because…”

Body of your letter:

In clear, concise language, tell the External Panel that assisted dying legislation must protect vulnerable patients without creating unreasonable barriers to Canadians looking to exercise their right to physician assisted dying.

For more background on our proposals for fair and just legislation, please see our DWD Canada's 2015 Draft Policy Framework. In your own words, you may wish to highlight the following issues that federal lawmakers can address in legislation.

1. Fundamental principles

  • Everyone, including people with disabilities, should have the support and resources necessary to live their life to full capacity.
  • Everyone who needs access to palliative care should have access regardless of where they live.
  • No one should ever feel coerced into hastening their own death because of a lack of support whether financial or emotional.

2. Eligibility criteria

  • In order to receive an assisted death, a patient must be a competent adult making a free, voluntary and informed decision. Physicians regularly assess patients’ competence to make life and death decisions. We rely on their expertise in assessing competence and determining when they need additional information to do so.
  • In order to receive an assisted death, a patient must have a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) and must be suffering intolerably. The Supreme Court determined it is the right of the patient to determine whether their suffering is unbearable to them.

 3. We need reasonable safeguards, not unreasonable barriers to access. 

  • An effective regime for assisted dying must address the risks that access is too easy and the risk that access is too difficult.
  • A second physician who is independent of the primary physician must provide written confirmation that the patient meets the criteria for access to physician assisted dying. This will ensure that the patient is competent and is not being coerced into a decision that they would not otherwise make.
  • A specialized capacity assessment may be sought by either physician if they have any uncertainty about the patient’s capacity to provide informed consent.
  • People who cannot speak or write should be able to present their request for a physician assisted death in writing or orally.
  • We do not support mandatory waiting periods because they are necessarily arbitrary and do not reflect individual circumstances. The determination of whether the request for assistance is enduring should be part of the doctor's assessment process. We believe physicians are best positioned to assess the need for waiting periods and should do so on a case-by-case basis.

Your conclusion

1. Summarize the crux of your letter. In a sentence or short paragraph, reiterate the main points you made in the executive summary.

2. Finish your letter by thanking the External Panel for their consideration. A little kindness goes a long way.



[Your name]

Other tips

Use personal experience. Include a personal story to illustrate why you’re passionate about making sure the federal approach to physician assisted dying is compassionate. Did you watch a loved one suffer in agony through a drawn-out terminal illness? Do you fear that you will face a similar fate? Make sure you include your comments about why you found the online survey troubling.

Include your professional qualifications/background, if appropriate. Do you have a background in the healthcare profession? If so, note it. In addition, state how your work has shaped your perspective on end-of-life care. If you don’t work in the health field, feel free to state your professional background, too. The government is asking for the input from people from all walks of life.

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