A report that will help craft Federal legislation on physician-assisted death has been tabled in the House of Commons.
The report makes 21 recommendations, along with safeguards in order to set up a system across the country to allow doctors and nurses to allow a person to die with dignity.
The report says the Federal Government must work with the provinces to lay out a framework for assisted death.
Only people suffering from grievous medical conditions causing enduring suffering who are covered by public health care can qualify.
The report recommends doctors and nurses who help a person die be exempted from the criminal code.
Safeguards include having informed consent signed by two different witnesses, and with two different doctors also signing off.
A two-stage legislative change is recommended with stage one for people 18 and over, followed by stage two – a study on the moral, medical, and legal issues for those under 18.
Minister Lake responds
BC’s Health minister says there is a lot of work to do, and not much time to do it, now that the roadmap for establishing a framework for doctor assisted death has been tabled.
Terry Lake says while at first look the recommendations fall into line with expectations, there will need to be some clarity on some issues.
Lake says the age of consent is 19 in B.C. but 18 in the doctor assisted death report.
“We will need to see what implications this has. Are they going to declare that 18 is the age across Canada? The age of majority here for most things is 19 of course, but for voting it is 18. We will have to clarify issues like that. In terms of advance directives, I think that is probably going further than some people thought, and that again will be the subject of discussion and debate.”
He adds most people support doctor assisted death.
“However we know there are people who feel strongly the other way, and so we have to make that there is room for conscientious objectors… in terms of healthcare providers. Not abandoning the patient, but you really have to allow for people to live with their conscience as well.”
He says the concerns of faith-based Providence Health Care can be balanced off by responsible patient transfer within Vancouver Coastal Health.
Patients in limbo?
While the federal government ponders a special parliamentary commission’s report on assisted dying, the BC Civil Liberties Association says patients are left in agonising limbo …
For the grieviously and terminally ill, the only legal option available has to be made through the courts.
And Grace Pastine from the BC Civil Liberties Association says until the government drafts new legislation, it’s still a very difficult time for Canadians seeking the legal right to die …
“For an individual who is suffering at the end of life, who may not have months or weeks to make a court application, thios might be impossible for them.”
“I’ve known of at least two people who wanted to make an application but died before they were able to, and they died terrible deaths and it’s not right that they had to suffer at the end of life.”
Federal Opposition Justice Critic Michael Cooper says he can’t support these recommendations made by the commission saying there are no safeguards for the mentally ill.