Bioethics News

Canada takes another step towards its euthanasia law

A committee of the Canadian parliament has recommended that the federal government make doctor-assisted dying immediately available to all adults with “grievous and irremediable” medical conditions — including mental illnesses — and eventually allow “mature minors” to end their lives.

The committee released 21 recommendations on Thursday to help the government draft euthanasia legislation in accordance with the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Carter v. Canada last year. Belgium’s permissive euthanasia regime appears to be the model for Canada’s new right-to-die law.

The committee says that new rules should be implemented in two stages. The first would apply immediately to those over 18 experiencing “intolerable” physical or mental suffering. The second stage — “no later than three years after the first” would extend it to “competent mature minors.”

Patients must be fully assessed by two doctors, independent of each other, to ensure that they have capacity to provide informed consent.

The report recommends that physicians with conscientious objections should be compelled to find someone willing to do so. It also recommends that all publicly funded facilities – even faith-based institutions – be compelled to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide. This goes beyond recommendations made by others that objecting institutions should allow an external provider to perform the procedures on their premises. It also ignores the advice of the Canadian Medical Association, which told the Committee that euthanasia and assisted suicide could be provided without suppressing freedom of conscience by forcing objecting physicians to refer for the procedures.

The Supreme Court ruled last year last year that denying patients euthanasia or assisted suicide was a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.