Will assisted death be available in rural Canada?

The federal government has until June 6th to draft the new law allowing assisted dying. Catharine Schiller, a lawyer and nurse in Prince George, B.C., says politicians should consider the needs of people in rural and remote communities while crafting the law.
Canadians have won the right to assisted suicide from the Supreme Court, and the federal government will respond with new legislation this spring. But will patients in Canada's rural and remote communities be able to access assisted death? (The Canadian Press)

When Catharine Schiller moved from the big city to northern British Columbia, she was surprised by the difference in health care delivery between urban centres and small towns.

Schiller, a nurse, lawyer, and assistant professor at the University of Northern British Columbia, wants the politicians drafting Canada's new assisted dying laws to consider all the people who may want to die in their home town, without travelling to the city.

She notes that in rural Canada, there's already a shortage of doctors and services, and doesn't want people to have to travel across the province to die.

My worry is that I don't want people to be forced into making that kind of life changing decision, of moving from their home and their comfort zone to a big city. I don't want the end result to be "well you can't have that service." They're legally entitled to it.- Catharine Schiller

In February, a parliamentary committee made 21 recommendations to the government for the law allowing assisted dying, which must be completed by June 6th. One of the recommendations is a provision for doctors to be able to decline to provide the service. To Schiller, that would likely reduce the pool of available practitioners in rural Canada even more, further limiting the availability of assisted dying in rural areas. Schiller says that will require creative solutions.

One option that I've heard bandied about quite a bit is telemedicine. That way the health care provider who's on the other end of the line can see the patient, can chat with the patient. Is it ideal? No, it would be lovely if to have the two people physically in the same space. But in rural and remote communities they've made it work. And there's no real reason it can't be used effectively in the assisted dying context.- Catharine Schiller

Click on the play button above to hear the full interview


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