On February 6, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down the laws against physicians helping someone end their own life (assisted suicide) and actively ending someone’s life at their request (consent to death). Individuals seeking help must have a grievous and irremediable medical condition (which may be due to illness, injury or disability) to qualify, and assistance must be provided by a physician. These changes take effect a year from the court’s decision: February 6, 2016.
At first blush, this seems like a landmark victory for those who believe religious dogma should not curtail individual choices. But that conclusion would be premature. The court’s decision only broadly sketches out a solution; the details will determine whether the spirit of the decision is honoured.
Much of the debate surrounding Physician Assisted Death (PAD) was between those who believe in personal autonomy and the right to avoid unwanted suffering, and those who believe life is sacred and suffering is redemptive. Those same two groups are now trying to influence the creation of detailed legislation and regulations. These laws and rules will determine whether physician assisted dying is just a right on paper, or is accessible to dying individuals across the country.
Two critical issues should concern those of us who believe in the separation of church and state: the qualification process for patients, and mandatory requirements for physicians and institutions who don’t support Physician Assisted Death (PAD).
Robertson goes on to discuss the two critical issues: access requirements and the duties of physicians and institutions. Dr. Robertson’s article is available on the CFI Canada website.
Time is running out to support choice in death.
- Respond to the “Issue Book” survey before November 1, 2015.
- Submit a letter through the online submission portal before October 19, 2015.