Canada introduces ‘assisted suicide’ legislation

April 20th, 2016


Quynh Tran

The Carroll News


Canada introduced legislation to legalize assisted suicide for Canadians who are inflicted with a “serious and incurable illness” that causes them “enduring physical or psychological suffering,” according to The New York Times.

The law specifies that only those consenting adults who are mentally competent can request an assisted suicide. The law states that doctors must diagnose that the patient’s death is “reasonably foreseeable” after considering all medical circumstances, The New York Times reported. Patients have to present a written request or have another person do it if they are unable. Then the request must be approved by two independent doctors. A waiting period of 15 days, during which patients can withdraw their requests at any time, must pass before a drug can be administered to the patients. The law also allows a patient’s closest family members to administer the drug, according to Reuters.

Assisted suicide has only been made legal in a handful of countries including Switzerland, Germany,  Albania, Colombia, Japan as well as a handful of states in the U.S. including Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana.

However, assisted suicide only applies to those who are part of the Canadian national healthcare system, which means that patients that do not reside in Canada cannot travel to Canada to participate in an assisted suicide. The assisted suicide rule in Germany applies to both Germans and non-Germans and doctors in Netherland, Belgium and Luxembourg are only allowed to perform assisted suicide under strict conditions, according to ABC News.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, the justice minister of Canada said at a news conference on Thursday, April 14, “For some, medical assistance in dying will be troubling. For others, this legislation will not go far enough.”

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, refers to assisted suicide as “killing,” according to ABC News. Collins also said in an interview with The Associated Press that, “If we don’t know the difference between helping a person medically when they are naturally dying and causing them to die, I think our society has lost its moorings. That’s very troubling. That’s down a dark path when you describe something in a soothing way.” But Shanaaz Gokool from Dying with Dignity Canada, an organization that advocates assisted suicide laws, said the law doesn’t go far enough. She gives examples of a 16-year-old with cancer who cannot make a request and those who have been diagnosed with dementia or Parkinson’s are unable to make a request ahead of time, according to ABC News. And those who support the passing of this law reason that the law gives the dying patients their dignity and autonomy while respects their rights and choices, according to Reuters.

Prior to this legislation, anyone who counsels, aids or abets suicide would be sentenced 14 years of prison in Canada due to a Supreme Court ruling in 1993, BBC News reported. This law is expected to be passed this June since it is supported by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the liberals hold the majority of seats in the Parliament. “This will have a positive, significant impact on the lives of Canadians,” Trudeau said. “It is important to respect the choices made by Canadians.”

Editor’s Note: Information from ABC News, BBC News, Reuters and The New York Times was used in this report.