New legislation on assisted dying was introduced today that will spell out the conditions in which seriously ill or dying Canadians may seek medical help to end their lives.
The legislation says there should be a choice of medically assisted death for adults who are suffering intolerably, and for whom death is “reasonably foreseeable.”
The Prime Minister says it strikes the right balance.
“The plan we put forward is one that respects Canadian’s choices while putting in place the kind of safeguards needed.”
The Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould also talked about the bill. She says it protects the vulnerable while offering a a choice to mentally competent adults suffering an incurable disease where death is foreseen.
Interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose says the legislation needs ot protect the most vulnerable in society, including minors and the mentally ill and disabled.
So what do the groups on either side of this issue think about this new legislation?
The BC Civil Liberties Association says they’re disappointed and that the bill doesn’t go far enough.
Simi Sara spoke with Grace Pastine from the association to learn more. She says there are some extremely problematic elements to the legislation.
The BC Civil Liberties Association has been representing critically ill individuals for over five years now. They launched a lawsuit that ultimately led to a change in the criminal law.
“Our utmost goal all along has been to give Canadians who are suffering unbearably, the peace of mind and the improved quality of like that comes with knowing that if their suffering becomes absolutely unbearable, then a peaceful and a dignified death will be an available choice for them.”
“The government has introduced these insurmountable barriers”
Pastine says the legislation that was introduced today is going to leave many critically ill individuals alone in their suffering, and will not permit them to have a peaceful and compassionate death.
She gives an example of Kay Carter, who is at the centre of the lawsuit (Carter vs. Canada), who was 89 years old and suffered from spinal stenosis, a degenerative condition.
Kay was wheelchair bound, unable to feed herself, and suffering from chronic pain but did not have a disease where it was “reasonably foreseeable” that she would have a natural death caused by the disease.
“So we’re incredibly disappointed that the government has introduced these insurmountable barriers… it’s the combination of requiring an advanced state of irreversible decline and capability, as well as being able to prove that a natural death has become ‘reasonably foreseeable'”.
LISTEN to the full interview here:
Physician’s concern over proposed bill is two-fold
Physicians are also expressing concern for Canadians over this bill tables in the House of Commons today.
While the draft law doesn’t permit advance directives, or access to assisted suicide or euthanasia for mature minors or for those for whom mental illness is the sole reason for requesting the procedures, all Canadians remain vulnerable to abuses under the draft legislation.
LISTEN to the full interview with Polizogopoulos above: Begins at 7:50
Albertos Polizogopoulos is a lawyer associated with Canadian Physicians for Life, and says the bill goes too far.
“The concern on our part is two-fold. One with respect to physicians conscience rights, and one with respect to patients. From the physicians conscience rights perspective we;re concerned because there’s zero language protecting conscientious objectors.”
Polizogopoulos says the bill actually requires doctors to participate in the chain of events that would lead a patient to his/her death, regardless of whether or not they object to it on moral or conscientious grounds.
With respect to patients?
“We think the bill doesn’t have the vulnerable people in mind.”
He says the safeguards don’t included oversight or delay, and that the bill contemplates that there may be errors and says if a physician makes a mistake but believes that the person killed did want it, then you’ll be absolved from any liability.
“So what we’re doing with this bill is instead of saying ‘well let’s make sure this consent is actually consent’ – before you go ahead and end a person’s life – we’ll have that as a defense to you .”
He says instead of having safeguards at the outset, we have them afterwards to protect the people who actually do the procedure, as opposed to the people who are ending their lives.
Lack of protection for health care providers?
Will Johnston with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of BC says the bill is written in a way that defends people around the victim.
“Well it seems obvious that you need a third party independent review of the fact before the patient is killed, not afterwards. This legislation is anything but reassuring for anyone who sees assisted suicide and euthanasia as a public safety problem.”
He says one of the Bill’s biggest problems is the lack of protection for health care providers.
“They completely fail to deal with the question of opting-out. A more desirable piece of legislation would require that physicians opt-in to the process of killing their patients.”
He says it would be ideal for physicians to opt-in instead.