The federal government's proposed bill regarding physician-assisted death falls flat, according to the Dying with Dignity Canada Victoria chapter.
Bill C-14, if passed, would permit “access to medical assistance in dying for competent adults whose deaths are reasonably foreseeable.”
In order to be eligible for a medically-assisted death the person must be at least 18 years old, have a grievous and irremediable medical condition and make the request voluntarily.
However, the bill sidesteps questions of advanced consent, for example, people with dementia or other degenerative medical conditions, and excludes people who are mentally ill and minors.
“I'm very disappointed in it,” said chapter co-chair and Victoria resident Ellen Agger. “For someone who receives a diagnosis of dementia for example, as my mother did, they'll be faced with a real cruel choice — to take their lives too early or die a death they don't want . . . It's much more restrictive.”
As part of the proposed legislation, people must also give consent for the request for a medically-assisted death at the time of death, which could cause problems for people who, for example, have cancer and then have a stroke and are no longer able to give consent, Agger added.
Recently, a special joint committee with members from all political parties, released a 70-page report with 21 recommendations on new federal legislation to enable the use of physician-assisted dying.
Victoria MP Murray Rankin was the vice-chair of the committee. He's disappointed the government ignored the committee's recommendations, which were based on more than 60 groups and 100 written submissions.
“This is really about parliament being asked to make a law in response to a unanimous supreme court decision. It's not about whether you support it or not,” Rankin said, adding he will be proposing a number of amendments to the bill.
“It's just like same-sex marriage, abortion or capital punishment or those kinds of issues. This helps define who Canadians are as a people . . . This is such a watershed moment and I just want to get it right.”
Agger said they would like to see the 21 recommendations by the special joint committee included in the legislation.
Recommendations include medical assistance in dying be made available to individuals with terminal and non-terminal medical conditions that cause intolerable suffering; that the federal government work with provinces and territories to ensure all publicly funded health care institutions provide medical assistance in dying; and medical-assisted dying can be carried out if two physicians are present.
The legislation must be passed by the House of Commons and the Senate, and signed by the governor general by June 6.
Dying with Dignity is a national organization committed to improving quality of dying and expanding end-of-life choices.