Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Panel Looking at Assisted Dying Learns Much from European Experience

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Panel Looking at Assisted Dying Learns Much from European Experience

Article excerpt

Countries with assisted death aid Canadian panel

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TORONTO - The head of a panel looking into legislative options to govern doctor-assisted death says a recent fact-finding tour in Europe has opened members' eyes to the many complexities surrounding a practice that's soon to become legal in Canada.

Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov said he and the two other members of the External Panel recently returned from an intensive 11-day study of how physician-aided dying has been implemented in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland, where patients can legally have their deaths hastened.

"We learned a tremendous amount from experts who have a great deal of experience with end-of-life regimes in their countries," said Chochinov, Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care at the University of Manitoba.

"We saw people from such diverse perspectives -- people who still continue to struggle with the issue of physician-hastened dying and are very much opposed to it," he said Monday from Winnipeg.

"And we saw others who were, of course, much more comfortable and described this as something that has become part of their cultural experience around death and dying."

Chochinov, Ryerson professor emerita Catherine Frazee and University of Ottawa law professor Benoit Pelletier were appointed to the panel by the Harper government in July, following the Supreme Court of Canada's February decision to overturn the ban on doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The high court ruled that Canadians with unbearable and irremediable suffering could be eligible to end their lives with a doctor's aid, but the justices stayed their decision until February 2016 to give Parliament time to replace the existing law if it so chooses.

The panel was appointed to consult experts and the Canadian public before providing the government with potential options for crafting new legislation, but their work, for the most part, is on hold until the federal election is decided Oct. 19.

Chochinov, Frazee and Pelletier met with a broad range of experts in the three European countries, including general-medicine and palliative-care physicians, lawyers, government officials and bio ethicists. …

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