New right-to-die bill won't allow for advance requests for assisted dying: report

News broke on April 8 that the federal government’s proposed legislation on physician-assisted dying will apparently not give patients the right to make advance requests for assisted dying.

If this is the case, the bill — which will reportedly be announced sometime next week — will provide only a strict, narrow reading of the Supreme Court’s Carter v. Canada decision. It will extend assisted dying to competent individuals suffering from serious illnesses, while effectively restricting choice and creating unfair barriers for patients with degenerative illnesses like dementia.

Without advance consent, individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions that diminish mental competency will be left with just two options. They will either have to end their lives prematurely while still sound of mind in order to access their Charter right to physician-assisted dying, or they will have to endure the very suffering and indignity they sought to avoid.

We cannot grant a Charter right to some individuals and abandon others to have to make a tragic choice.

“It is incredibly cruel to tell individuals that they either have to face dying too early when they still could have months, or even years, of quality life ahead, or tell them that they have to face a horrific death that they would not have otherwise chosen,” said Shanaaz Gokool, CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada.

This is not real choice. This not only goes against the spirit of the Supreme Court’s ruling, but it goes against the government’s own parliamentary joint-committee’s recommendations. It also dismisses the 80 per cent of Canadians who support the right to advance consent for assisted dying.

“If the Liberal government doesn’t include advance consent in the legislation, they will be missing a historic opportunity to uphold the spirit of Carter and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Gokool said.

As we inch closer to June 6, it has never been more crucial to tell the government that new right-to-die legislation must allow for Canadians with a dementia diagnosis to make advance requests for assisted dying.

(Header photo credit: deandare06/Flickr)

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