(Pixabay photo)

Feds launch consultation on who’s allowed to seek medically assisted death

Court ruled eligibility cannot be restricted to those whose natural death is ‘reasonably foreseeable’

The Trudeau government is launching public consultations on how best to respond to a court ruling that concluded it’s unconstitutional to allow only Canadians who are already near death to seek medical assistance to end their suffering.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the government accepts the Sept. 11 ruling of the Superior Court of Quebec and will amend the federal law accordingly.

But while the government has agreed to eliminate the near-death requirement, its consultation questionnaire suggests other hurdles could be imposed to ensure what it considers to be a balance between a person’s right to choose to end their life and protecting vulnerable individuals who could be pressured into an early death.

Under the court ruling, it has until March 11 to amend the law.

Canadians will have until Jan. 27 to offer their views on how the law should be amended through the online questionnaire being launched on Monday.

At the same time, Justice Minister David Lametti, Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough will be holding roundtables and meetings with stakeholders and other key actors.

The ruling came on the first day of the federal election campaign last fall.

Justice Christine Baudouin ruled that it is unconstitutional for the federal law to restrict eligibility for a medically assisted death to those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.” She similarly said it’s unconstitutional for Quebec, which has its own assisted dying law, to limit eligibility to those who are at the “end of life.”

The ruling technically applies only in Quebec but, since the Trudeau government declined to appeal the decision, any amendments will apply across the country.

The federal law went into effect in June 2016, following a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling that struck down the previous prohibition on medical assistance in dying.

The online questionnaire asks people to consider what safeguards should be put in place to prevent abuse if the foreseeable death requirement is removed from the law.

Among other things, it asks people to consider whether:

— The current 10-day period of reflection between requesting and receiving a medically assisted death should be increased.

— The law should require that both the medical practitioner and patient agree that other reasonable treatments and options to relieve suffering have been tried without success.

— Mandatory psychological or psychiatric assessments should be required to determined capacity to consent.

— Mandatory consultation with an expert in a person’s medical condition should be required, in addition to the current mandatory two medical assessments.

READ MORE: Disability rights organization ‘distressed’ about medically assisted death at B.C. hospital

While the public consultations are aimed primarily at how to respond to the Quebec court ruling, they will also dip into broader issues that were excluded in the new law and which must be considered as part of a parliamentary review of the law that is to begin this summer.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Three projects on the North Coast awarded funding

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Hagensborg Water District purchases new fire truck; prepares for conversion to CCRD

Approximately $1.3 million of the district’s infrastructure grant has been transferred to the CCRD.

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

Northern B.C. First Nations call for reversal of grizzly bear hunting ban

Growing grizzly populations have led to fewer ungulates and increased fear of attacks says Chad Day

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

Most Read