Feds ask Supreme Court to delay its ruling on assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada is extremely disappointed with the federal government’s decision to ask the Supreme Court to delay the implementation of its ruling in Carter v. Canada.

In its Feb. 6, 2015 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the country’s Criminal Code ban on physician assisted dying. The high court gave Ottawa and the provinces 12 months to respond to the ruling, but did not require them to pass any new legislation.

The leading organization working to prevent unnecessary, unwanted suffering for patients at end of life, Dying With Dignity Canada is speaking out against the federal government’s move to ask the Supreme Court for a six-month extension.

“We are very troubled by the possibility of more deferrals and more delays,” said DWD Canada CEO Wanda Morris. “Our hearts go out to those patients who are suffering greatly but cannot wait any longer. Their needs, and not politicians’ timelines, need to take priority.”

An extension is unnecessary, Morris added. Existing laws and regulations are sufficient to ensure that assisted dying can be responsibly administered while the provinces and the federal government developed harmonized legislation. And many provincial medical colleges have tabled new regulations addressing how doctors should treat requests for aid in dying.

“The government should be applauded for wanting to craft thoughtful legislation on assisted dying,” said Morris. “But they can do so without trampling on patients’ rights any longer.”

She called on the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada to immediately turn down the federal government’s request for an extension.

“The Supreme Court showed immense compassion in its decision to strike down our unfair, unconstitutional law against physician assisted dying,” she said. “We are hopeful they will show the same compassion this time around.”

Morris urged Canadian decision-makers to adopt the recommendations outlined in DWD Canada’s “Blueprint for Leadership on Physician Assisted Dying.” Developed in conjunction with the BC Civil Liberties Association, the document outlines what each major stakeholder in Canada’s healthcare system must do to make safe, equitable and timely access to assisted dying available to patients across the country.

“We need our lawmakers to work together to guarantee a compassionate alternative to brutal, unwanted suffering at end of life,” said Morris. “Now is the time to get the job done.”

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