Five things: what happens after Supreme Court's June 6 assisted-death deadline? | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Five things: what happens after Supreme Court's June 6 assisted-death deadline?

May 30, 2016 - 3:10 PM

OTTAWA - Health Minister Jane Philpott admitted Monday the government is at risk of missing next Monday's Supreme Court deadline for a law governing doctor-assisted death. Here are five questions about what might come next.

1. What will happen if there is no legislation in place?

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has said critically ill Canadians will have access to physician-assisted dying — even if there is no law passed by June 6 — and patients will no longer need to seek a court exemption.

The group says physician-assisted dying will be regulated by the provincial and territorial health care laws as well as the standards of the medical profession, and that patients will be required to meet the criteria set out by the Supreme Court in its decision.

Trudo Lemmens, a law professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in health law and policy, says most physicians can and should be reluctant to actively participate in life-ending actions in the absence of a legislative framework.

"Other provisions of the Criminal Code can apply," he told The Canadian Press.

2. What are some of the federal government's concerns about failing to meet the deadline?

On Monday, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the government is committed to moving forward with Bill C-14.

"We are committed to having in place, it is our responsibility as parliamentarians, a legal framework in this country that ensures we find the right balance between personal autonomy, protection of the vulnerable and ensuring there is access in this country," she told the Commons during question period.

3. What will be the role for regulatory bodies?

The Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons in every province and one of three territories have issued guidelines that doctors must follow in providing medical assistance in dying.

With the exception of Quebec, all rely heavily on the eligibility criteria set out by the Supreme Court last year in a landmark ruling which concluded that the procedure should be available to clearly consenting adults with "grievous and irremediable" medical conditions who are enduring intolerable suffering.

The provincial regulatory bodies have done a very good job given the circumstances, Philpott said.

"I've seen the pieces of regulations that they have put into effect — they're very good," she said. "Having said that, they are not consistent across the country, so that's a challenging in and of itself."

Organizations that provide legal advice to health care providers have noted they would not feel comfortable proceeding without legislation in place, she added.

4. What else are we hearing from the medical community?

The Canadian Medical Association has stressed the need for legislation to be in place by June 6. The organization fears that a lack of clear laws will create anxiety in the medical world.

The Canadian Pharmacists Association also backs the government's bill.

"Bill C-14 strikes the appropriate balance between ensuring Canadians' right to access to assisted dying while providing the necessary protections for health care professionals who choose to participate in assisted dying," it said in a statement Monday.

5. What can be expected from the Senate at it looks to examine the bill?

Some senators have already indicated they will closely scrutinize the legislation in the upper chamber once it lands there later this week. Some members have already questioned the bill's constitutionality, while others have proposed a number of amendments.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also cut ties with the Liberals in the Senate prior to the election, so those former Liberal senators won't feel obliged to follow the government's approach. There are also independent members in the chamber as well.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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