Ontario forms expert panel on assisted dying
Governments look to craft legislation after Supreme Court decision
The Ontario government is setting up an advisory group to study physician-assisted dying, leading 11 provinces and territories in examining the controversial subject.
The panel is similar to the one established by the federal government to inform its end-of-life legislation.
The panels are a response to a Supreme Court of Canada decision in February that struck down the federal law prohibiting physician-assisted dying. The federal, provincial and territorial governments will need to craft laws around the court ruling by February 2016, when the ruling takes effect.
Ontario and the participating provinces and territories say the primary responsibility to provide health care resides with them, and the panel will craft their response to the court ruling.
The advisory group will provide advice on the development of policies, practices and safeguards for provinces and territories to consider when physician-assisted dying is legal within their respective jurisdictions.
"End-of-life care and physician-assisted dying are challenging and sensitive issues for patients, families and health care providers," said Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins.
The advisory group will be co-chaired by Jennifer Gibson, a director of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, and Maureen Taylor, a medical journalist with the CBC and physician assistant in infectious disease. Taylor's husband, Donald Low, a famed microbiologist in Toronto, advocated for physician-assisted suicide before his death.
The government is also inviting Ontarians to share their views on physician-assisted dying and end-of-life care through in-person consultations and an online survey.
News of the panel was well-received among proponents of right-to-die legislation.
"We are delighted to see the provinces take comprehensive and compassionate leadership on this critical human rights issue," said Wanda Morris, CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada. "It is very refreshing to see movement from government leaders that puts the needs and concerns of patients first. We are confident the 84 per cent of Canadians who support the right to die with dignity will be able to make their voices heard."