OTTAWA: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms will testify before a Joint Committee of the House of Commons and Senate today, regarding what Parliament’s response should be to the 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Carter v. BC (Attorney General). The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the Criminal Code prohibition on physician-assisted suicide. Parliament has until June of 2016 to pass new legislation to implement the Court ruling.
The Carter ruling does not compel doctors or other healthcare workers to cooperate unwillingly in a physician-assisted suicide (“PAS”). Carter was predicated on two key factual conditions: a willing patient and a willing doctor. The applicants in Carter all had willing doctors. They neither sought nor received a Charter right to compel doctors and other healthcare practitioners to provide, or refer for, PAS.
Titled Protecting Patients and Doctors: The Charter Rights of Medical Practitioners, the Justice Centre’s Brief to the Special Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying sets out five recommendations:
Recommendation 1: The new law should provide explicitly that physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care workers, as well as health care organizations and institutions, can refuse to participate in, and refuse to refer for, physician-assisted suicide (“PAS”) or euthanasia.
Recommendation 2: Parliament should enact legislative protections for medical practitioners in a substantially similar fashion to those contained in the Civil Marriage Act.
Recommendation 3: The Federal legislation should mandate that the Application process for PAS be made to a Superior Court Judge on a permanent basis, as established on an interim basis by Carter. the interim solution established by Carter. Of all the available options to Parliament this is the best.
Recommendation 4: The Federal Legislation should mandate a Parliamentary Review Board every 3-5 years to review the physician assisted suicides that have occurred and make recommendations for any legislative amendments.
Recommendation 5: Parliament should note the constitutional infringements already apparent in the various guidelines released by the provincial Colleges of Physicians and the Canadian Medical Association, and codify the necessary protections in the pending legislation to prevent the erosion of practitioners’ rights