Assisted death legislation written within 'compressed timeline': justice minister
Published Sunday, April 17, 2016 11:03AM EDT
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says that given how little time there was to re-write legislation on physician-assisted death before a court-imposed deadline, the government took “the best approach for Canada now.”
The Liberals tabled the proposed legislation Friday, just a few weeks ahead of the deadline of June 6 imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The legislation would allow Canadian adults who are “suffering intolerably" or whose death is "reasonably foreseeable" to seek the assistance of a doctor to end their life.
The proposed legislation, however, does not allow for patients to make advance requests for assisted death, nor is it available to “mature minors,” or those with mental illnesses who are not facing a “foreseeable” death. Last December, a special parliamentary committee recommended that those groups be included in the legislation
Asked on CTV’s Question Period why the government chose such a conservative approach, Wilson-Raybould said the aim was to balance the needs of Canadians while protecting the vulnerable.
“We believe that the approach we put forward is the best approach for Canada now, balancing the recognition of personal autonomy with protecting the vulnerable, while appreciating and respecting the conscience rights of medical practitioners,” she said.
Some groups have applauded the legislation, including the Canadian Medical Association, which called the legislation “thoughtful and comprehensive.”
But the group Dying With Dignity Canada said it was “deeply disappointed” with the legislation, which they said contained “discriminatory rules” that would “create unfair barriers to access to medical aid in dying.”
Wilson-Raybould said Sunday she recognizes that assisted death is “an incredibly emotional and sensitive issue” and that some Canadians will continue to suffer. But it is written into the legislation that some of the more controversial committee recommendations will be studied further, she said.
“Given the timeframe that we had to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision -- our deadline to have legislation in place is June 6 – issues like advanced directives, mature minors, mental illness require us to have further study,” Wilson-Raybould said.
She added that she looks forward to debating the proposed legislation in Parliament and to hearing the views of Canadians.
“It is a compressed timeframe. Having said that we continue to welcome a robust discussion and debate within Parliament and certainly at committees to ensure we have found the best solution that we can bring forward to meet the court deadline,” she said.