Assisted Dying in Canada: Where Do We Go From Here
Brought to you by Science Café and CFI Canada, Sudbury Branch
Tuesday, Sept 29, 2015 at the Laughing Buddha.
In February, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously decided (9-0) that the existing law prohibiting Physicians from assisting Canadians commit suicide was struck down. The Supreme Court then set a period of one year for the government to craft legislation that would be in line with the ruling of the court that Canadians should be permitted to seek Physician assisted suicide in certain circumstances.
The presentation was given by Udo Schuklenk, a bioethicist and professor of philosophy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and by Dr Edward Nagjerbauer, a retired family physician and part time professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine
Udo’s presentation was given based on a great deal of research that he’s done in the field of bioethics. He was one of the contributors to “Special Issue: End-of-Life Decision-Making in Canada – The Report by the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel” He was able to quote statistics from other countries and jurisdictions that have already legalized Physician Assisted Suicide. Unjustified fears that the legalization of Physician Assisted Suicide will lead to cases where doctors use their authority to euthanize people without their consent and other slippery slope arguments of this nature were easily dismissed by him and the research he did on the subject. We already know that there are other countries that allow PAS and none of the events as described by the slippery slope argument have come to pass.
Dr Najgerbaur’s presentation was obviously from a Doctors point of view and raised the question of the training of future doctors. Training future generations of doctors will include training on how a physician might be needed to help a patient die, if he/she asks for it. He compared the present zeitgeist regarding Assisted Dying as being very similar to the issue of abortion from 20 years ago in terms of politics. It was and in some cases is still a very contentious issue for politicians.
Dr. Nagjerbauer discussed the issues to be discussed when a patient asks for an assisted death from a physician? Who do they ask? Who determines if they are competent to ask for assisted death? What safeguards will be put in place? Where can it be done – at home or does it have to be in a hospital?
There are a great deal of questions that need to be answered before a useful guideline can be made and effective laws passed. It’s been 6 months since the supreme court has made the decision, and the clock is ticking on the 1 year deadline to have meaningful legislation passed to address this issue. These questions will have to have answers. Soon.
CFI Sudbury Branch Manager