A sane law for assisted dying

Opinion Apr 15, 2016 by Editorial Waterloo Region Record

It was always going to be impossible for the federal government to please everyone with a new law to allow medically assisted dying in Canada. The issue, like abortion, is just too divisive.

While some advocates wanted the door open as wide as possible to give even children the right to an assisted death, others tried to kick the same door shut and deny such a momentous choice to anyone, any time.

Yet doing nothing was never an option in what is literally a matter of life and death. The Supreme Court of Canada had ordered the government to legislate by June 6, and unless they opted to invoke the politically poisonous notwithstanding clause, the Liberals had to act. Moreover, polls consistently showed opinions had changed over the decades with a majority of Canadians now favouring the right to a medically assisted death in at least some situations.

This was surely a tough assignment. However, based on the legislation introduced in Ottawa Thursday, the federal government has offered a compassionate, sane and limited approach to medically assisted death that cautiously moves Canada into a new and unfamiliar era. The right of individuals to choose when to end their lives has been balanced judiciously with strong protections for those who are vulnerable and at risk of being preyed upon.

Full marks to the Liberals. Their legislation gives the choice of medically assisted death, under certain conditions, to "adults who are suffering intolerably and for whom death is reasonably foreseeable."

In this the legislation is, to its credit, far more restrictive than what the Supreme Court called for in its landmark ruling last year. Then, the top court said a person's condition did not have to be terminal, nor did the affliction have to be purely physical, for a medically assisted death to be an option.

Likewise, the new bill wisely stops short of including disturbing proposals offered by a parliamentary committee earlier this year which would have made a medically assisted death available to those with mental illnesses or psychiatric conditions and to allow people facing dementia the option of giving advanced consent to assisted death. The committee was also open to allow assisted death to children — who it quaintly termed "mature youth." On this matter, too, the new legislation is, thankfully, silent.

Canadians have embarked down a new path, one that offers greater freedom for individuals to control not only the amount of pain they must endure but their very destiny. Yet, where all this will take us remains unknown.

Once it becomes law, this bill will almost certainly be challenged by those who demand that a medically assisted death be available to more than just those in pain and facing death. The government itself will appoint one or more independent bodies to consider whether the law should eventually cover children or people who suffer from a mental, but not physical, illness.

For now, this legislation is a trustworthy guide as we strike out into new territory. Canada is taking a big step. We should look around carefully and understand the full implications of our actions before taking any more leaps.

A sane law for assisted dying

Opinion Apr 15, 2016 by Editorial Waterloo Region Record

It was always going to be impossible for the federal government to please everyone with a new law to allow medically assisted dying in Canada. The issue, like abortion, is just too divisive.

While some advocates wanted the door open as wide as possible to give even children the right to an assisted death, others tried to kick the same door shut and deny such a momentous choice to anyone, any time.

Yet doing nothing was never an option in what is literally a matter of life and death. The Supreme Court of Canada had ordered the government to legislate by June 6, and unless they opted to invoke the politically poisonous notwithstanding clause, the Liberals had to act. Moreover, polls consistently showed opinions had changed over the decades with a majority of Canadians now favouring the right to a medically assisted death in at least some situations.

This was surely a tough assignment. However, based on the legislation introduced in Ottawa Thursday, the federal government has offered a compassionate, sane and limited approach to medically assisted death that cautiously moves Canada into a new and unfamiliar era. The right of individuals to choose when to end their lives has been balanced judiciously with strong protections for those who are vulnerable and at risk of being preyed upon.

Full marks to the Liberals. Their legislation gives the choice of medically assisted death, under certain conditions, to "adults who are suffering intolerably and for whom death is reasonably foreseeable."

In this the legislation is, to its credit, far more restrictive than what the Supreme Court called for in its landmark ruling last year. Then, the top court said a person's condition did not have to be terminal, nor did the affliction have to be purely physical, for a medically assisted death to be an option.

Likewise, the new bill wisely stops short of including disturbing proposals offered by a parliamentary committee earlier this year which would have made a medically assisted death available to those with mental illnesses or psychiatric conditions and to allow people facing dementia the option of giving advanced consent to assisted death. The committee was also open to allow assisted death to children — who it quaintly termed "mature youth." On this matter, too, the new legislation is, thankfully, silent.

Canadians have embarked down a new path, one that offers greater freedom for individuals to control not only the amount of pain they must endure but their very destiny. Yet, where all this will take us remains unknown.

Once it becomes law, this bill will almost certainly be challenged by those who demand that a medically assisted death be available to more than just those in pain and facing death. The government itself will appoint one or more independent bodies to consider whether the law should eventually cover children or people who suffer from a mental, but not physical, illness.

For now, this legislation is a trustworthy guide as we strike out into new territory. Canada is taking a big step. We should look around carefully and understand the full implications of our actions before taking any more leaps.

A sane law for assisted dying

Opinion Apr 15, 2016 by Editorial Waterloo Region Record

It was always going to be impossible for the federal government to please everyone with a new law to allow medically assisted dying in Canada. The issue, like abortion, is just too divisive.

While some advocates wanted the door open as wide as possible to give even children the right to an assisted death, others tried to kick the same door shut and deny such a momentous choice to anyone, any time.

Yet doing nothing was never an option in what is literally a matter of life and death. The Supreme Court of Canada had ordered the government to legislate by June 6, and unless they opted to invoke the politically poisonous notwithstanding clause, the Liberals had to act. Moreover, polls consistently showed opinions had changed over the decades with a majority of Canadians now favouring the right to a medically assisted death in at least some situations.

This was surely a tough assignment. However, based on the legislation introduced in Ottawa Thursday, the federal government has offered a compassionate, sane and limited approach to medically assisted death that cautiously moves Canada into a new and unfamiliar era. The right of individuals to choose when to end their lives has been balanced judiciously with strong protections for those who are vulnerable and at risk of being preyed upon.

Full marks to the Liberals. Their legislation gives the choice of medically assisted death, under certain conditions, to "adults who are suffering intolerably and for whom death is reasonably foreseeable."

In this the legislation is, to its credit, far more restrictive than what the Supreme Court called for in its landmark ruling last year. Then, the top court said a person's condition did not have to be terminal, nor did the affliction have to be purely physical, for a medically assisted death to be an option.

Likewise, the new bill wisely stops short of including disturbing proposals offered by a parliamentary committee earlier this year which would have made a medically assisted death available to those with mental illnesses or psychiatric conditions and to allow people facing dementia the option of giving advanced consent to assisted death. The committee was also open to allow assisted death to children — who it quaintly termed "mature youth." On this matter, too, the new legislation is, thankfully, silent.

Canadians have embarked down a new path, one that offers greater freedom for individuals to control not only the amount of pain they must endure but their very destiny. Yet, where all this will take us remains unknown.

Once it becomes law, this bill will almost certainly be challenged by those who demand that a medically assisted death be available to more than just those in pain and facing death. The government itself will appoint one or more independent bodies to consider whether the law should eventually cover children or people who suffer from a mental, but not physical, illness.

For now, this legislation is a trustworthy guide as we strike out into new territory. Canada is taking a big step. We should look around carefully and understand the full implications of our actions before taking any more leaps.