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Federal Government of Canada Unveils Assisted Dying Bill

Hospital Bed

Today, the Federal Government of Canada introduced Bill C-14, “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying.)” This bill is in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s February 6, 2015 decision to strike down the ban on physician-assisted dying, a measure that comes into affect on June 6, 2016. The Federal Government now has until that date to turn Bill C-14 into law.

Bill C-14 provisions laid out today by Justice Minister Jane Wilson-Raybould and Health Minister Jane Philpott focused strongly on providing “robust safeguards” for those considering medical assistance in dying and medical professions who would carry out these procedures.

For patients, they would have to prove that their medical condition is “grievous and irremediable” and that it “causes them enduring intolerable suffering.” However, one major caveat to this notion is that such a patient must be considered near death, or moving toward it, in order to receive assistance in dying.

To avoid people making a rushed decision, the Government would require patients to submit a written request regarding the need to have an assisted death and have it signed off on by an independent medical professional and two independent witnesses. The patient would also have to embark on a 15-day “reflection period” to contemplate their decision on assisted dying.

For doctors and nurse practitioners, they will be able to assist in a patient’s death without risk of criminal charges. While the Federal Government aims to have a unified approach to how provincial governments coordinate their assisted dying practices, it did note that each region would develop a system that worked best for it. Doctors and nurses would also not be mandated to perform such a procedure. As a result, if an individual is unable to find an agreeable practitioner nearby, the government will help them find another elsewhere.

At the moment, the aforementioned patient provisions would not apply to those suffering from mental illness, unless said illness is unequivocally leading that person toward death. What’s more, the bill would not yet cover advance directives related to doctor assisted dying, or mature minors who have a grave illness.

Canada is also aiming to focus solely on the medical needs of its citizens, thus deciding not to open up its doctor-assisted dying procedures to non-Canadian citizens.

The Federal Government went on to explain how complicated of a matter medically assisted dying can be and promised to continue the conversation as it relates illnesses (i.e. Alzheimer’s) and other various conditions that wouldn’t fall under this initial law, if it were to pass.

Click here to read the entire bill.

In light of Bill C-14 being tabled, VisionTV will be airing an encore presentation of “My Life – My Choice: Dying with Dignity” on Monday, April 18 at 9pm ET/6pm PT. This documentary chronicles the final days in the life of Kathy Wardle, a Canadian citizen whom, after years of suffering from chronic, debilitating physical pain, chose to end her life in Switzerland with the assistance of a medical professional.

-Adam Grant

Here is an excerpt from “My Life – My Choice: Dying with Dignity”:

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