Government tables Doctor-Assisted Dying Bill

The government has introduced bill C-14, legislation to allow medically-assisted dying in Canada. The legislation was spurred on by a unanimous ruling on Feb. 6, 2015, when the Supreme Court struck down the ban on physician-assisted dying on the grounds that it violated Canadians’ Charter rights.

The bill will restrict doctor-assisted death to mentally competent adults who have serious and incurable illness, disease or disability. The bill also sets out safeguards to protect vulnerable Canadians. The bill will protect people from being encouraged to die in “moments of weakness”, include a mandatory 15-day “reflection period” so people don’t make rash decision after a diagnosis, re-affirm goals on suicide prevention and encourage a “consistent approach” across Canada and allow doctors and nurse practitioners to provide assistance without risk of criminal charges.

Patients must be eligible for publicly funded health care services in Canada, which precludes people from the U.S. or other jurisdictions travelling to Canada to end their lives with the help of a doctor in what some have called “suicide tourism.”

The bill does not include some of the most contentious recommendations from a parliamentary committee, including extending the right to die to “mature minors” and the mentally ill, and allowing advance consent for patients with degenerative disorders. The bill limits access to those “suffering intolerably” and whose death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

The bill will go to committee for further study before it goes to the House for a vote, and all Liberal, Conservative and NDP MPs will have a free vote to vote with their conscience. It must also clear the Senate before it becomes law.

The government must pass the legislation before the June 6th deadline imposed by the Supreme Court.

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