Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Respecting the Right to Die

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Respecting the Right to Die

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Respecting the right to die


An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Oct. 13:

Some physicians in Manitoba and across Canada are drawing the line. Dying with the help of a doctor will soon be the law, but they'll have no part of it. Not even to refer the patient -- mentally competent and suffering from an irremediable and intolerable condition -- to another physician.

That's called patient abandonment. While understandable, given that some doctors are morally opposed to aiding death, licensing bodies across Canada have taken a dim view of it.

Most provincial licensing bodies and provincial governments are still working out what kinds of rules, laws and processes will be needed to guide this new ethos in medical care, now that the Supreme Court of Canada has made it a patient's right to die with the help of a doctor.

Last February, the Supreme Court struck down the Criminal Code section on assisted death, as it relates to doctors. It gave the federal government a year to change the law to permit physician-assisted death. Essentially, the court found that to make a patient in unending pain and suffering endure life against their will was cruel -- forcing them to end their lives early by suicide, or to face a protracted death in intolerable pain that robbed life of quality.

Manitoba's College of Physicians and Surgeons has started its consultations to determine what rules it will impose on doctors here.

The Harper government dragged its feet on the matter, appointing only in July a national panel to advise provinces on how to regulate physician-assisted death, including defining what is a grievous, irremediable condition? How can the service be provided in rural areas? How do pharmacists or nurses, for example, fulfil their duties in assisting deaths? A panel on amending the Criminal Code, to comply with the court's order, was similarly late in being set up.

New provincial or federal legislation or regulation would supersede any rules laid out by physician licensing bodies. …

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