Kitchener-Waterloo

Ontario releases report, launches consultation on doctor-assisted death

An expert advisory panel led by the Ontario provincial government has released its final report recommending provinces adopt a national strategy for palliative care and to ensure access to physician-assisted dying.

Public consultation meetings planned across Ontario beginning in January, 2016

An expert advisory panel led by the Ontario provincial government has released its final report recommending provinces adopt a national strategy for palliative care and to ensure access to physician-assisted dying.

The advisory group spent three months consulting with key organizations, experts and community leaders,from across Canada, the report co-chairs said in a release.

The report made 43 recommendations, the majority of which dealt with ensuring widespread access to physician assisted dying, documentation of eligibility requests and eventual outcomes, and standardized legislation across Canada. There was also a nod to the need for accommodation of medical professionals who might object to helping a patient die.

In a unanimous landmark ruling on Feb. 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the ban on physician-assisted dying, on the grounds that it violated Canadians' charter rights. Justices gave the federal and provincial governments 12 months to prepare for the decision to come into effect.

Current status: in flux

Canada's physicians, patients, religious communities and even politicians have been scrambling to come up with a strategy since the ban on physician-assisted suicide was struck down by the Supreme Court and the federal government given a year to change, adapt or make new laws.

In October, the new federal government asked the court for more time.

Twenty-two of the report's recommendations focus on how and what legislation provincial and territorial governments should implement in the meantime. 

National input

Karima Velji, President of the Canadian Nurses Association and Integrated Vice President, Mental Health Services, for London Health Science Centre and St. Joseph's Health Care in London was on the advisory panel. 

The Ontario-sponsored report also included medical, ethical and practitioner consultants from British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Alberta as well as experts from the University of Toronto.

Public consultation coming

Now that the expert panel has reported, the provincial government is launching a website seeking public input into how Ontarians feel about the issue of doctor-assisted suicide, how palliative care may have affected, or may in future affect, their family, and what they think should become the standard for practice in Ontario. 

And, starting in January, the government will be holding public meetings in nine centres across Ontario:

  • Sudbury, January 6, 2016.
  • Ottawa, January 7, 2016.
  • Toronto, January 11, 2016.
  • Sault-Ste. Marie, January 12, 2016.
  • Barrie, January 14, 2016.
  • Kingston, January 18, 2016.
  • London, January 19, 2016.
  • Thunder Bay, January 20, 2016.
  • Windsor, January 21, 2016.

The online survey will be active only until the day after the public meetings, and will be closed after January 22, 2016.

now