Will assisted dying be available to all Canadians who are facing horrific deaths or catastrophic medical conditions? Or will implementation delays and complex regulations mean that assisted dying is virtually inaccessible to patients, no matter how much patients are suffering?
The answer depends on how our lawmakers address three issues related to access to end-of-life choice. We’ve captured these challenges in our fancy new infographic located below. They will be at the centre of our advocacy as we push for assisted dying legislation that prioritizes individual choice, promotes equal access and introduces safeguards that protect vulnerable Canadians but don’t unfairly restrict access for patients who qualify for assisted dying.
If we want to ensure eligible Canadians have access to assisted dying, we have to deal with three key challenges.
1. Safeguards should be reasonable, but not excessive. Governments must not eviscerate the Supreme Court’s decision by legislating onerous barriers to access rather than reasonable safeguards. Having a second physician confirm a patient’s competence is a reasonable safeguard. Judicial reviews of every request, or requiring sign-off from all family members, are not.
2. Non-participating physicians and pharmacists must provide effective referrals. Doctors may decline to provide assisted dying and pharmacists may opt out of filling prescriptions. But they cannot abandon their patients.
3. Patients need to be able to die wherever they live. This means hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities cannot be allowed to prevent a willing doctor from assisting an eligible patient. Institutions, including hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities that receive public funds, must not be allowed to prevent Canadians from exercising their legal right to an assisted death.