New recommendations provide 'blueprint' for assisted dying in Canada

New recommendations released by the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on assisted dying should serve as the blueprint for a pan-Canadian system for physician-assisted death, Dying With Dignity Canada says.

Established by the Government of Ontario in collaboration with 10 other provinces and territories, the nine-member panel was tasked with studying possible legislative responses to the Supreme Court’s February decision on assisted dying. Released to the public on Monday, the group’s report includes 43 recommendations on how Canadian lawmakers can create a safe, equitable and consistent legal framework for assisted dying.

The leading organization helping Canadians to avoid unwanted, unnecessary suffering at end of life, Dying With Dignity Canada applauds the expert advisory group for outlining a compassionate, patient-centred approach to the issue.

“We thank the expert advisory group’s nine members for their tireless, inspired work,” said DWDC CEO Wanda Morris. “Together, they have laid out a vision for assisted dying that is true to the spirit of the Supreme Court’s decision as well as the needs, hopes and concerns of patients across this country.”

In particular, Morris lauded the advisory group for its recommendations on patient access. The report says provincial and territorial governments “should require all regional health authorities to have an effective publicly-funded care coordination system in place to ensure patient access to physician-assisted dying.”

Laws and regulations should also be implemented, the report says, to ensure that patients whose doctors refuse to provide assisted dying are not abandoned by the healthcare system.

“Patients, especially those at end of life, often lack the wherewithal to navigate the healthcare system on their own,” said Morris. “Adopting the advisory group’s recommendations will help ensure our most desperately ill patients aren’t condemned to a horrific death simply because their doctors oppose aid in dying.”

Dying With Dignity Canada supporters would be extremely supportive of provisions allowing patients to request assisted death through advance care directives, Morris noted.

No need to delay Supreme Court's decision

The report comes while the Supreme Court is weighing the federal Liberals’ request to delay the implementation of the court’s decision in Carter v. Canada. The Feb. 6, 2015 ruling strikes down the country’s Criminal Code ban on assisted dying, but gave lawmakers 12 months to adopt new rules.

“The expert advisory group’s findings show that an extension is unnecessary,” Morris said. “For its part, the federal government has to do very little to ensure responsible access to assisted dying.”

Morris called on Ottawa and the provinces to move quickly to adopt and implement the report’s recommendations.

“For so many years, patients facing horrific diagnoses were robbed of rightful access to physician assisted dying,” she said. “Now that we have a blueprint for a compassionate, comprehensive, Made-in-Canada framework, the choice of a peaceful death has never been closer to becoming a reality.”

For more information on the report, read the CBC's coverage of the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group's recommendations.

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