WATCH: Does new assisted suicide legislation go too far or not far enough?
The federal government unveiled its proposed law for Canadians who want a doctor’s help to die.
“This is an historic day for our country,” says health minister Jane Philpott. “It is about compassion in times of great emotion and grief.”
According to the proposed assisted suicide legislation introduced by the Trudeau government on Thursday, the person must be at least 18 and competent with a serious and incurable illness that causes enduring suffering. And death must be ‘reasonably foreseeable’.
The patient must submit a written request and get a medical opinion from two independent health care providers.
There’s a 15-day waiting period and a doctor or nurse practitioner must administer or prescribe the substance.
“This is an incredibly deeply personal issue tied to their life experience and personal beliefs,” says justice minister Jody Wilson Raybould.
The Canadian Medical Association is applauding the plan but says there’s still more discussion needed.
“So that we can make sure that physicians are very clear when a patient comes into their office we all want to be consistent on who qualifies and who doesn’t,” says Dr. Jeff Blackmer of the CMA.
But those who have pushed most forcefully for this law says it doesn’t help minors or those suffering only from mental, but not physical, illness.
“How is that not discriminating? It is,” argues assisted dying advocate Bar Brzezicki.
“The law is surprisingly good but it has some drawbacks,” adds University of Victoria professor Eike Kluge.
Kluge was the ethics adviser to the historic Sue Rodriguez in the 1990’s and the first expert witness on the subject.
“Death must be reasonably foreseeable which means people who suffer Parkinson’s or Huntington’s, for example, who would like to die before they reach a really debilitating stage will not be able to,” Kluge says.
Many complex questions will also be left to the provinces and territories, such as whether faith-based hospitals can be exempt and whether doctors who don’t want to help a patient die must give referrals.
“We obviously will take a look at this leg very closely,” says B.C. health minister Terry Lake. “We’ve being working closely with college of physicians and surgeons, college of nurses, and the college of pharmacists to ensure we are protecting vulnerable people and making sure law followed.
The Supreme Court deadline to get a new law in place is June 6th.