Tuesday June 7, 2016
Missed deadline on medically assisted dying leaves doctors divided
June 6 was the last day for Parliament to pass legislation governing medically assisted dying before a deadline imposed by the Supreme Court. It won’t happen.
On Friday, the Senate sent the bill to its legal affairs committee for study. The committee meets today but won’t be able to report on the bill until the full Senate resumes Tuesday. And it still could be weeks before any federal law is in place.
That means on Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s original ruling becomes the law, which means doctors can’t be prosecuted under the Criminal Code if they help a patient suffering from a “grievous and irremediable” illness to die.
So, what does that mean?
The medical community is divided.
Dr. Gus Grant, with the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada, believes doctors are better off without a new law.
“Many voices have created June 6 to be a deadline. It’s not a deadline. It’s simply the day (the Supreme Court’s Carter decision) becomes the law of the land,” Dr. Grant said on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics last week.
“And the language that said it’s a deadline creates the brinksmanship type mentality, a false sense of urgency, which is what is motivating people to pass legislation that is flawed,” he added.
Grant argued the condition in the government’s legislation that requires a patient’s death to be “reasonably foreseeable” is meaningless to physicians.
But Dr. Jeff Blackmer, Canadian Medical Association’s vice-president of medical professionalism, argues the exact opposite, saying the federal government’s language needs to be more precise than simply a “grievous and irremediable illness.”
“I have spoken to hundreds and hundreds of physicians. We have done the work on this. We have gone out to our membership and said, ‘Does this make sense to you? Can you incorporate this at the bedside?’ And they have unequivocally told us ‘No.’
“So they are looking to the federal law for guidance on this.” (CBC News)