Canadians Should Have Easy Access to Doctor-Assisted Death, Lawmakers Say

Most controversially, the report says that assisted death should be available to those with mental illnesses or psychiatric conditions, and eventually, to minors.

by Josh Visser
Feb 25 2016, 9:00pm


A new Canadian parliamentary report recommends that few restrictions, not even the need to have a terminal illness, be placed on Canadians' ability to access doctor-assisted suicide.

Most controversially, the report also says that assisted death should be available to those with mental illnesses or psychiatric conditions. The report also recommends that parliamentarians consider allowing minors to have access to assisted-death after a three-year period in which only adults are allowed to access it.

"Suffering is suffering, regardless of age and that there is a risk that the provisions may be challenged on the basis of section 15 of the Charter (equality rights) if minors are excluded," the report says, paraphrasing an expert witness.

The 21 recommendations, released Thursday, come from a 16-member parliamentary committee as Justin Trudeau's government looks into new legislation for assisted death after last year's Supreme Court ruling.

The government was supposed to have a new law in place for February but was given a four-month extension last month.

Given that it's politics, not everyone on the committee agreed with the report. Four Conservatives wrote a dissenting opinion, saying not enough safeguards were being put in place.

The report lays out general guidelines for who can access assisted death and how it should be granted.

Basically, anyone with an illness that causes enduring suffering and with the ability to provide informed consent should have the ability to access doctor-assisted death, the report says.

For safeguards, the report suggests two doctors need to independently sign off on a patient's death request, and the request should be witnessed by two people who don't have a conflict of interest.

The report also recommends advanced consent, such as that for people with onsetting Alzheimer's, be available.

"An advance request allows the process to be undertaken before the suffering is enduring and intolerable. Otherwise, the person would have to continue to endure the suffering during the processing of the request and any waiting period," the report says.

The report says that doctors should be allowed to object to the practice as long as they recommend the patient to another physician.

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