P.E.I. officials prepare for federal assisted dying legislation

The province says its justice and health departments are preparing for assisted dying legislation from the federal government.

Province working to ensure policies respect Supreme Court ruling while reflecting values of Islanders

P.E.I. health and justice officials are actively involved in pan-Canadian discussions regarding assisted dying says the province. (Chris Kreussling)

P.E.I's justice and health departments are preparing for assisted dying legislation from the federal government. 

In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the prohibition on doctor-assisted death, giving Parliament one year to enact new laws. In February 2016, the high court granted the new Liberal government a four-month extension, to June 6.

"P.E.I. officials are working to ensure that our policies and processes respect the Supreme Court ruling while reflecting the values and concerns of Islanders," a provincial spokesperson said in a written statement sent to CBC.

"Reflecting the values and concerns of Islanders is a general consideration given to any new policy or legislation," the spokesperson wrote.

"The provinces and territories have worked closely together to determine the best options and once the federal government declares its intentions with regard to the legislation, we will be able to move forward," added Minister of Health and Wellness Robert Henderson in the statement. 

The Supreme Court's unanimous ruling said the current ban on physician-assisted death violates Canadians' charter rights and that people with "grievous and irremediable" medical conditions should be able to die with a doctor's help. 

In late February a 70-page parliamentary report tabled in the House of Commons called "Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach" said Canadians should have the right to make an "advance request" for medical aid in dying after being diagnosed with certain debilitating, but not necessarily terminal, conditions.

The report says the right to assisted death should not be limited to physical conditions, and that Canadians with psychiatric conditions should not be excluded from doctor assistance to end suffering.

P.E.I. officials working on policy

Health and justice officials from the Island are actively involved in pan-Canadian discussions and working to ensure consistency between legislation, regulation and policy, the province said.

Clinicians and stakeholder and community groups have had early discussions looking at the implications and roles and responsibilities for those involved. Stakeholders include groups such as the Medical Society of P.E.I. and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of P.E.I. who would be involved in developing clinical practice guidelines. 

At the federal and regional levels there has been a constant emphasis on the need for harmonization and common policies, said the provincial spokesperson.


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