In Case You Missed It: June 2017

In Case You Missed It is a monthly round-up of news articles and commentaries featuring Dying With Dignity Canada speakers and stories. Did you miss these stories in June?

Members of the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers (CAMAP) met in Victoria from June 2 to 3. The group has developed clinical guidelines based on the experiences of MAID providers in the year since the law passed, which include a recommendation to replace the term "reasonably foreseeable" with "reasonably predictable." DWDC Physicians Advisory Council chair, Dr. Jonathan Reggler, comments:

'Reasonably foreseeable' is not a term used in clinical medicine," he said, adding 'predictable' allows medical professionals to more clearly understand the law, which he believes has so far been misinterpreted, leading to inequity in services in various provinces.

Renate Morris refused to take 'no' for an answer when she was told she didn't qualify for an assisted death. We thank her son, Tom, and his wife, Elaine, for sharing Renate's story with us.

From June 13 to 15, court proceedings in the challenge to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPSO) effective referral policy took place in Toronto. The group challenging the policy says that it contravenes doctors' right to freedom of religion and conscience under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The CPSO insists that patients’ right to access all health services must be protected and that the current policy balances patients’ right to access with any physician’s conscience or religious beliefs.

For a summary of each day, please refer to the DWDC blog:

Day 1:

Day 2 :

Day 3:

Please see the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario press release, in which DWDC is named as a key intervener.

DWDC patron R. Michael Warren wrote an excellent Toronto Star op-ed in defense of effective referral for MAID.

More on how doctors’ personal views cannot trump patients’ rights. (FYI: the author, Supriya Dwivedi, worked with DWDC on government relations work in 2016.)

Toronto lawyer, Derek Smith, speaks about the importance of effective referrals and how the court challenge to the CPSO guidelines deserves to fail.

Two Montrealers living with degenerative diseases are going to court to challenge the federal and Quebec assisted dying laws.

Read more about this legal challenge on the DWDC blog:

Last month, Liana Brittain reached out to DWDC to share the story of how her beloved husband, Paul, was the first person to access MAID on Prince Edward Island. She told DWDC that she wanted desperately to fulfill a promise she made to Paul: that she would share his story widely. With our help, Liana was able to reflect on Paul's choice in this CBC interview.

Audio and article:

Liana wrote a gorgeous retelling of her and Paul's story for the DWDC blog:

She also spoke to the Journal Pioneer about Paul's decision and final days:

Dr. Brian Goldman of CBC’s White Coat, Black Art, discussed the ground-breaking guidelines published by the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers (CAMAP).



DWDC Physicians Advisory Council chair, Dr. Jonathan Reggler, spoke to the Times Colonist about clarifying MAID eligibility criteria and how “reasonably predictable” may be the best indicator.

“Judging by the number of cases discussed and the fact that ‘reasonably foreseeable’ is the single-most concerning part of almost all of the cases, I would say it has been very difficult for doctors,” Reggler said.

An update on the Lamb v. Canada case: Lawyers for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) sought a court order to bar the federal government from relitigating issues that were already decided in Carter. The BCCLA’s Jay Aubrey explains:

"In the meantime, people like Robyn Moro are left suffering intolerably, waiting for the right that was already given to them by our Supreme Court in 2015."

200 people on Vancouver Island have accessed MAID in the past year. This interview features Jeffrey Brooks, co-chair of the Victoria chapter, and Drs. Stefanie Green and David Robertson.

Video and article:

31 people in Saskatchewan have chosen an assisted death since MAID legislation passed.

Video and article:

The Alberta government announced that they are preparing their own MAID report. Unlike the federal government’s report (due in December 2018), Alberta will have theirs ready by September 2017 and will also make recommendations for the future. Dr. Jim Silvius of Alberta Health Services explains:

“We didn’t do this to be ahead of anybody but we did it because we wanted to be sure that citizens in Alberta were able to access whatever they needed when it became possible for them to do so,” said Silvius. “Putting the panels together was just an extension of that same thinking.”

DWDC Disability Advisory Council member, John Priddle, spoke to his local news station about those left behind by the current law.

Video and article:

To mark one year since legislation passed, DWDC’s Calgary chapter hosted an event in their community. June Churchill spoke to AM 770 about the event and what C-14 means.

This article gives an overview of the Manitoba MAID team and the processes currently in place. Winnipeg chapter members, Cheri Frazer and Sherry Marginet, are featured.

Dr. David Amies, a member of both DWDC's Physicians Advisory Council and our Lethbridge chapter, reflects on Canada’s assisted dying law, one year later.

39-year-old Martine Partridge accessed an assisted death in May. She wrote about her decision in a letter that was later published by the Edmonton Journal.

More on Martine’s story and Alberta’s approach to MAID in the province.

David Forsee died in February. The final weeks of his life were reflected on in this stunning Hamilton Spectator piece.

A 77-year-old Ontario woman known as A.B. sought a court declaration to allow her to access an assisted death. Although two physicians agreed that she met the eligibility criteria, the difficulty in interpreting “reasonably foreseeable” caused the providing doctor to back out. Since at least one other doctor disagreed that she met the requirement of reasonable foreseeable death, the physician feared that if he was legally incorrect in his interpretation, he could be criminally prosecuted.

Superior Court Justice Paul Perell declared that A.B.’s “natural death is reasonably foreseeable” on Monday. The decision is encouraging as it may clear up some of the confusion surrounding eligibility.

DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool comments on what the decision means:

“I think this decision may be able to help others in similar situations and it might bring enough clarity that doctors who have been hesitant about providing an assisted death may look to this decision.”

Video and article:

More remarks from Shanaaz Gokool on the ruling.


Read more about A.B.’s case on the DWDC blog:

In June, a source leaked documents to DWDC showing that the board at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg had voted in May to allow MAID. The records also revealed that the Catholic Health Corp. of Manitoba responded by stacking the hospital’s board with new appointees and demanding a revote. We shared the documents with the Winnipeg Free Press, the CBC and CTV, ensuring that journalists had what they needed to expose the harms of allowing publicly funded hospitals to put dogma ahead of Canadians’ rights.

Dying With Dignity Canada Director James Cowan comments on the issue at St. Boniface:

"If we have institutions which either refuse to permit a medically necessary service to be provided on the premises or make it more difficult, then that makes access unequal amongst Canadians," he said. "That's not the way we provide universal health care in this country."

CEO Shanaaz Gokool comments:

“They basically stacked the board in favour of what the Catholic Health Corporation of Manitoba wanted. It is just incredibly troubling.”

CBC interviewed former chairman of the St. Boniface board, Murray Kilfoyle, who stepped down after stating that ‘[he] will be unable to support a policy [he] believe[s] allows for the undeniable reality of transfers of care that harm patients."

Article and video:

Outgoing medical staff president of St. Boniface, Dr. Marcus Blouw, spoke with CTV recently about why MAID should be available on-site:

“This is transferring people because of religious and ethical reasons not for medical necessity,” said Dr. Blouw. “It completely goes against everything we talk about to deliver patient centric health care.”

Dr. Blouw also spoke to the CBC about how St. Boniface's MAID ban is a breach of patients' Charter rights:

DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool wrote an op-ed on why public hospitals must not be allowed to deny patients' right to assisted dying:

DWDC played a crucial role in exposing St. Boniface's ban on assisted dying. Resignations followed in the aftermath of the breaking story:

The Manitoba government says that they will not force faith-based hospitals to provide MAID.

In the one year since legislation was passed, more than 1,300 Canadians have ended their lives with medical assistance. However, some Canadians are facing significant barriers to access. The CBC spoke to one woman whose father had to be transferred from his local hospital, St. Joseph’s General in Comox, British Columbia to another hospital an hour-and-a-half away. Following the transfer, he died in hospital before being able to access an assisted death. Physicians Advisory Council chair Dr. Jonathan Reggler comments:

"How can the owners of bricks and mortar have a conscientious objection [to medically assisted dying]?" he said. "Providers — doctors, nurses — of course they should [have that right]. But facilities should not."

However, there has been a positive development out of Comox, B.C.: After pushback from the community, hospice beds in the community are being relocated from a St. Joseph’s-controlled hospice to a secular institution.

Physician Advisory Council and Victoria chapter member, Dr. Adrian Fine, upholds that there is no legal basis for a faith ban on assisted dying in his letter to the editor.

In early June, an Ontario judge struck down a law that blocks access to information about abortion in the province. There are similarities between this ruling on abortion statistics and DWDC’s objection to restrictions on access to information about MAID. CEO Shanaaz Gokool comments:

“The decision seems to say that withholding information from Ontarians about health care services limits the ability to have full public and social policy discussions. The province has to take another look at what they have passed. To do otherwise would be problematic.”

Physicians Advisory Council member, Dr. James Downar, spoke with CBC’s Michael Enright about choice and control at end of life.

Disability Advisory Council and Victoria chapter member, John Priddle, contributed his story to the DWDC blog. Diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia in 2000, John shares with us why he joined the organization and his concerns with the narrowness of Bill C-14.

Almost a year has passed since Ian Shearer died after enduring a painful hospital transfer. His daughter, Jan Lackie, reflects on the agonizing experience her father suffered through after his hospital refused to allow him to access MAID. DWDC’s Calgary chapter member, June Churchill, spoke to CBC about the issues with faith-based institutions opting out:

“The general public is in support of this," Churchill says, "but it's a few people with authority and who feel they have a right to decide how we live our lives that are making these decisions."

Deb Johnston accessed an assisted death on June 11. According to the Saskatchewan government, she is one of at least 21 people to access MAID so far in the province.

CBC looks at the importance of Advance Care Planning. DWDC Director Sue Hughson spoke about the importance and limits of end-of-life planning:

"I've done the best I can and hopefully this will be honoured. This is also life. You can't plan for everything. That's just part of the natural chaos."

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