Assisted death means ‘very difficult decisions’: Saskatoon expert

WATCH ABOVE: The federal government has introduced a law dealing with assisted dying and Saskatoon residents respond. Ryan Kessler says one expert expects the controversial legislation means difficult decisions on the horizon.

The federal government’s physician-assisted death legislation presents another choice for terminally ill people, albeit a challenging one, according to the chair of the Saskatoon-based Prairie Hospice Society.

“I’m sure there will be people who will think they didn’t go far enough and people will think they went too far,” said Kathy Ford, who is on the board for the in-home, end of life care program.

The non-profit organization serves about 50 clients in Saskatoon, offering companionship, transportation and other help for people in the final stages of life.

READ MORE: Canadian government unveils long-awaited assisted-dying law

While the Prairie Hospice Society remains “entirely neutral” on the topic, Ford said the legislation will offer patients a choice.

“These are deeply personal issues to be decided by the individual and the physician and their family,” Ford said.

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More than a year after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down prohibition of doctor-assisted death, Canada’s Health Minister Jane Philpott and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould made the announcement.

“The government did introduce legislation that would give dying patients the dignified choice of a peaceful, medically-assisted death,” Wilson-Raybould said.

READ MORE: Assisted-dying in Canada: What you need to know about the new law

The proposal is still more restrictive than what was recommended by a recent parliamentary committee.

A patient must offer their consent and be 18 or older and mentally competent. He or she must have a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability. The person must also be in an “advanced state of decline” among other criteria.

Advocacy group Dying With Dignity Canada criticized the legislation, as it rules out mature minors, the possibility of advanced consent and mental illness.

“[The federal government] can refer those to the Supreme Court of Canada who can come back with advice as to whether those exclusions will violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Dying With Dignity Canada CEO Shanaaz Gokool.
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The government has committed to an independent study of the health issues not covered by the legislation.

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