The Spectator’s View: A flawed but promising start on right to die

Opinion Apr 16, 2016 Hamilton Spectator

Call it assisted suicide, the right-to-die, doctor-assisted death or the current label "medical assistance in dying." The bottom line is that a strong majority of Canadians want a law that allows medical professionals to help desperately, terminally ill people to end their suffering in relative peace.

It's a credit to the Trudeau government that in relatively short order, it demonstrated respect for the will of The Supreme Court by coming up with the beginnings of public policy on this sensitive and polarizing issue. It's uncomfortable for everyone, but it's critically important the wishes of Canadians are not ignored as they were by the previous government.

The government and other stakeholders have already put massive effort into the proposed legislation rolled out earlier this week. The outcome doesn't please those who say it goes too far, and it doesn't please those who argue it needs to go further. It's a starting point, and by the time it is law, a mountain more effort will have been invested. That, too, is appropriate.

It is not surprising that the government is treading lightly around some of the more contentious aspects of assisted death. Recommendations from a Commons/Senate committee wanted "mature minors" to be covered by the law. Given the sensitivity of children being involved, leaving them out for now is the correct path. Instead the government ordered more study. Eventually denying "mature minors" any degree of self-determination will result in a legal challenge, so hopefully that study will happen in relatively short order. The same is true of excluding people with mental illness.

One area where we cannot agree with the government's proposed law is around "advance requests." This could happen to people who receive a dementia diagnosis and want to sign an assisted death request while still competent. The government fears that opens the door to third parties making the final decision. It's a legitimate concern, but we can't exclude dementia victims from the final law. Adequate safeguards can be developed, but ultimately, dementia sufferers need to have the same rights as the terminal cancer or ALS victim.

Overall, this is a laudable first effort, if such a description can be applied to something as inherently troubling as assisted death. It also makes sense that the legislation be tested against the Supreme Court's direction to see if it meets the court's mandate rather than leaves individuals with that task.

We have only started down this road. Expect extensive debate and a degree of polarization.

Canadians have said repeatedly the majority wants a greater degree of self-determination around dying. The government recognizes this and is trying to strike a balance respecting that and protecting the rights of the vulnerable. This is a credible start.

Howard Elliott

The Spectator’s View: A flawed but promising start on right to die

Opinion Apr 16, 2016 Hamilton Spectator

Call it assisted suicide, the right-to-die, doctor-assisted death or the current label "medical assistance in dying." The bottom line is that a strong majority of Canadians want a law that allows medical professionals to help desperately, terminally ill people to end their suffering in relative peace.

It's a credit to the Trudeau government that in relatively short order, it demonstrated respect for the will of The Supreme Court by coming up with the beginnings of public policy on this sensitive and polarizing issue. It's uncomfortable for everyone, but it's critically important the wishes of Canadians are not ignored as they were by the previous government.

The government and other stakeholders have already put massive effort into the proposed legislation rolled out earlier this week. The outcome doesn't please those who say it goes too far, and it doesn't please those who argue it needs to go further. It's a starting point, and by the time it is law, a mountain more effort will have been invested. That, too, is appropriate.

It is not surprising that the government is treading lightly around some of the more contentious aspects of assisted death. Recommendations from a Commons/Senate committee wanted "mature minors" to be covered by the law. Given the sensitivity of children being involved, leaving them out for now is the correct path. Instead the government ordered more study. Eventually denying "mature minors" any degree of self-determination will result in a legal challenge, so hopefully that study will happen in relatively short order. The same is true of excluding people with mental illness.

One area where we cannot agree with the government's proposed law is around "advance requests." This could happen to people who receive a dementia diagnosis and want to sign an assisted death request while still competent. The government fears that opens the door to third parties making the final decision. It's a legitimate concern, but we can't exclude dementia victims from the final law. Adequate safeguards can be developed, but ultimately, dementia sufferers need to have the same rights as the terminal cancer or ALS victim.

Overall, this is a laudable first effort, if such a description can be applied to something as inherently troubling as assisted death. It also makes sense that the legislation be tested against the Supreme Court's direction to see if it meets the court's mandate rather than leaves individuals with that task.

We have only started down this road. Expect extensive debate and a degree of polarization.

Canadians have said repeatedly the majority wants a greater degree of self-determination around dying. The government recognizes this and is trying to strike a balance respecting that and protecting the rights of the vulnerable. This is a credible start.

Howard Elliott

The Spectator’s View: A flawed but promising start on right to die

Opinion Apr 16, 2016 Hamilton Spectator

Call it assisted suicide, the right-to-die, doctor-assisted death or the current label "medical assistance in dying." The bottom line is that a strong majority of Canadians want a law that allows medical professionals to help desperately, terminally ill people to end their suffering in relative peace.

It's a credit to the Trudeau government that in relatively short order, it demonstrated respect for the will of The Supreme Court by coming up with the beginnings of public policy on this sensitive and polarizing issue. It's uncomfortable for everyone, but it's critically important the wishes of Canadians are not ignored as they were by the previous government.

The government and other stakeholders have already put massive effort into the proposed legislation rolled out earlier this week. The outcome doesn't please those who say it goes too far, and it doesn't please those who argue it needs to go further. It's a starting point, and by the time it is law, a mountain more effort will have been invested. That, too, is appropriate.

It is not surprising that the government is treading lightly around some of the more contentious aspects of assisted death. Recommendations from a Commons/Senate committee wanted "mature minors" to be covered by the law. Given the sensitivity of children being involved, leaving them out for now is the correct path. Instead the government ordered more study. Eventually denying "mature minors" any degree of self-determination will result in a legal challenge, so hopefully that study will happen in relatively short order. The same is true of excluding people with mental illness.

One area where we cannot agree with the government's proposed law is around "advance requests." This could happen to people who receive a dementia diagnosis and want to sign an assisted death request while still competent. The government fears that opens the door to third parties making the final decision. It's a legitimate concern, but we can't exclude dementia victims from the final law. Adequate safeguards can be developed, but ultimately, dementia sufferers need to have the same rights as the terminal cancer or ALS victim.

Overall, this is a laudable first effort, if such a description can be applied to something as inherently troubling as assisted death. It also makes sense that the legislation be tested against the Supreme Court's direction to see if it meets the court's mandate rather than leaves individuals with that task.

We have only started down this road. Expect extensive debate and a degree of polarization.

Canadians have said repeatedly the majority wants a greater degree of self-determination around dying. The government recognizes this and is trying to strike a balance respecting that and protecting the rights of the vulnerable. This is a credible start.

Howard Elliott