Dying With Dignity Canada cheers Joint Committee's recommendations on assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada is cheering the recommendations of Parliament’s Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying and urges the federal government to base new legislation for aid in dying on the policy proposals laid out in the committee’s final report.

Tasked with outlining a possible legislative response to the Supreme Court’s February 2015 decision on assisted dying, the multi-party committee of MPs and senators submitted its report in both houses of Parliament Thursday morning.

The leading organization helping Canadians to avoid unwanted, unnecessary suffering at end of life, Dying With Dignity Canada praised committee members for their hard work and for laying out a roadmap to a national framework for physician-assisted dying.

“We thank the MPs and senators on this committee for their swift but thoughtful work on this extremely important issue,” said Dying With Dignity Canada CEO Shanaaz Gokool. “Their recommendations embrace the spirit of the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Carter v. Canada and should serve as the basis for new legislation on assisted dying.”

In particular, Gokool lauded the committee for asking the federal government to allow Canadians with a diagnosis for a serious illness like dementia to make advance requests for assisted dying that could be carried out after the patient loses competency. Eight in 10 Canadians support this option, said Gokool, citing a recent opinion poll commissioned by DWDC and conducted by Ipsos Reid.

“Patients deserve real choice,” she said. “Without the option to consent in advance to assisted dying, Canadians with dementia who want to die in peace with the help of a physician face a dire choice: access assisted dying prematurely, while they are still competent; or risk losing competence before their wishes can be carried out, only to be condemned to the exact fate they sought to avoid.”

Gokool also thanked the committee for recommending that all publicly funded hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities be required to allow assisted dying on their premises. “Unless taxpayer-funded healthcare facilities are required to allow aid in dying on-site, then terminally ill patients in many regions of the country will effectively be denied their right to die with the help of a doctor.”

Over the next weeks and months, Dying With Dignity Canada will continue to be heavily engaged in the political process, to ensure that the will of the 85 per cent of Canadians who support their hard-won Charter right to safe, equitable and timely access to physician-assisted dying is fully and faithfully embodied in legislation, Gokool said.

“Make no mistake: these recommendations are an excellent start, but we aren’t there yet.”

(Header photo credit: Makaristos/Wikimedia)

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