Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference following a cabinet swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on July 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Trudeau pressed to ensure less restrictive assisted-dying law a priority

Group wants death in the ‘foreseeable future’ to not be a requirement

Even before he swears in his new cabinet, Justin Trudeau is being urged to ask his new justice minister to move swiftly to make Canada’s assisted-dying law less restrictive.

The prime minister has said he’ll comply with a September court ruling that struck down as unconstitutional the requirement that only those near death can qualify for medical help to end their suffering.

In her ruling, Quebec Superior Court Judge Christine Baudouin gave the government six months — until March 2020 — to amend the law, although the government could seek an extension.

Dying with Dignity Canada is urging Trudeau, who is to unveil his new cabinet on Wednesday, to ensure whomever he appoints as justice minister will give priority to amending the law — and go further than the ruling demands.

For starters, the group wants the government to get rid of the requirement that a person’s natural death must be reasonably foreseeable in order to qualify for a doctor-assisted death. That is the provision struck down by Baudouin.

But it also wants the government to drop the stipulation that someone must be able to give informed consent twice: once when they request the procedure and again immediately prior to receiving it.

The requirement to give consent a second time has stripped some people, who’ve been approved for an assisted death, of their ability to follow through after their condition deteriorated and they lost the capacity to give last-minute consent.

In other cases, people who feared losing capacity have refused brain-fogging pain medication or have been forced to receive a doctor-assisted death sooner than they wanted.

Dying with Dignity Canada has been lobbying hard for an end to the second consent requirement.

They are calling for ”Audrey’s amendment” in memory of Audrey Parker, a Halifax woman who was suffering from terminal breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. She had been approved for an assisted death but ended her life earlier than she had originally wanted last fall because she feared she was losing mental capacity.

READ MORE: Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

“We would like to see (these changes) high on the list of priorities because there are real cases of real people who are waiting for this to happen,” said Jim Cowan, a former Liberal senator who is now chair of the Dying with Dignity Canada board.

Longer term, the group wants the government to change the law to allow people to make advance requests for an assisted death but Cowan suspects the government will want more time to debate that.

The issue must be dealt with, in any event, under the legally required parliamentary review of the assisted dying law that must be launched by next June.

The review must also deal with two other issues left unresolved in the 2016 legislation: whether it should apply to mature minors and those suffering solely from mental illnesses.

Dying with Dignity Canada is urging the government to include it in preparing for the review. Cowan noted that the group has a lot of data and personal stories about how the law has worked and “where the difficulties lie.”

Cowan declined to comment on who his group might like to see as justice minister.

However, it’s likely that Dying with Dignity Canada and other groups advocating for a less restrictive law would prefer to see Montreal MP David Lametti remain in the post.

They were thrilled when Trudeau plucked Lametti from the backbenches last January to take on the justice portfolio. He was one of just four Liberal MPs who had voted against the Trudeau government’s 2016 legislation that legalized medical assistance in dying.

The former law professor had argued the law was too restrictive and did not meet the eligibility criteria set out by the Supreme Court in a landmark 2015 ruling that struck down the prohibition on doctor-assisted death — an opinion eventually echoed by Baudouin.

The law was originally spearheaded by former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, now an Independent MP, who rejected calls for changes even in the face of anguished pleas from Parker and others.

During the recent election campaign, Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and Green Leader Elizabeth May all agreed that the government should comply with Baudouin’s ruling. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he’d appeal it.

Trudeau’s Liberals won a minority of seats in the House of Commons and will need the support of either the NDP or the Bloc to pass legislation — which should be relatively assured in the case of amendments to the assisted-dying law.

“We support Dying with Dignity Canada’s call for the government to re-examine this law,” NDP MP Don Davies said in a statement Monday.

“The recent court ruling in Quebec highlights the problem with the current … rules and as Jagmeet Singh mentioned during the last campaign, we are committed to improving the law to ensure that everyone has the right to die in dignity.”

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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

NIC launches virtual orientation sessions

New students encouraged to take part in virtual sessions, webinars, video tours starting this summer

Chart your own course for 2020 YANA Ride

Registration for annual fundraiser ongoing

UPDATE: More details released on search for missing Vancouver Island hiker

Searchers scouring Strathcona Park near Gold River for experienced 65-year-old on 40-kilometre trek

Comox woman completes half-marathon in support of Spinal Cord Injury BC

For 16 years, Spinal Cord Injury BC (SCI-BC) has been there, supporting… Continue reading

Comox Valley Community Foundation allots more COVID-19 emergency response money

11 local groups share $52,500 in latest round of grant distribution

Horrifying video shows near head-on collision on Trans Canada

The video was captured on dash cam along Highway 1

Fraser Valley woman complains of violent RCMP takedown during wellness check

Mounties respond that she was not co-operating during Mental Health Act apprehension

B.C. sees 12 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths

Three outbreaks exist in health-care settings

Lost dog swims Columbia River multiple times searching for home

The dog was missing from his Castlegar home for three days.

COVID-19: B.C. promotes video-activated services card

Mobile app allows easier video identity verification

ICBC to resume road tests in July with priority for rebookings, health-care workers

Tests have been on hold for four months due to COVID-19

Comox Valley Regional District awarded poverty reduction strategy grant

The Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD), in partnership with the City of… Continue reading

Would you take a COVID-19 vaccine? Poll suggests most Canadians say yes

75 per cent of Canadians would agree to take a novel coronavirus vaccine

RCMP seek man facing sexual assault charges

Police believe he may be living on central Vancouver Island but also has a history in the Cariboo region

Most Read