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Advocates say NB legislation on medically assisted dying will lessen burden on families

The number of Manitobans receiving medically assisted deaths has increased significantly since the service became legalized. Staff Files / Global News

New Brunswick Justice Minister Denis Landry has introduced legislation to end coroners’ investigations into medically assisted deaths.

“The bill will assist people to have aid for dying and medical assistance to die, (it) will be put in place and we’ll want to work accordingly with that, but the coroner won’t have to investigate to each case,” Landry said.

READ MORE: New Brunswick ends automatic coroner investigations of assisted suicides

Landry says only deaths involving irregularities will have to be reported.

“It’s a change to the federal law that will say that people can get assistance to die and because of that, it’s done medically, it would be done by professionals and the reason why we won’t report it to the corner is because of that,” said Landry.  “It will be done in the hospital and all of those things.”

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Dying with Dignity Canada CEO Shanaaz Gokool says the legislation is a positive step and she hopes other provinces and territories will follow suit. She says the coroner usually only investigates deaths of a suspicious nature and says that puts “undo burden” on families and health care providers.

Gokool says it also “casts an air of suspicious on something that we know is not suspicious.”

“When we’re talking about medical assisted dying, we’re talking about something that is sanctioned by the Supreme Court of Canada, by the federal government’s legislation with C-14 and it’s ensured medical treatment in all of the provinces and territories of the country,” said Gokool.

“So we don’t think that the coroner should need to be contacted in instances where people have had medical aid dying.”

READ MORE: Assisted death: Around 200 Canadians have taken advantage of new law

Gokool says when families are waiting for the coroner to show up, there’s a series of things that need to happen.  She says even with the most peaceful assisted deaths there is still trauma as families grieve their loved ones.

“You know, we can all rest assured that the safe guards are in place and there’s no reason to cast any further suspicion over a medically assisted death,” Gokool said.

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She says the organization hopes to see more information and a “more fulsome” mechanism around reporting in place – including the number of people who have made requests, the number of requests that were denied, and the medical conditions that lead to the need for the assisted death, along with several other reporting categories.

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