Jane Philpott on dying requests: ‘It’s a daunting prospect’

Health minister tells doctors provincial regulations do not provide enough clarity

Health Minister Jane Philpott to testifies about the federal government's controversial bill on assisted dyingl before the entire Senate in Ottawa, Wednesday, June 1, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Health Minister Jane Philpott testifies about the federal government’s bill on assisted dyingl before the Senate in Ottawa, Wednesday, June 1, 2016. (Adrian Wyld, CP)

OTTAWA — Health Minister Jane Philpott says provincial guidelines do not provide enough clarity and protection to physicians who may be asked to help their patients die, suggesting people will have trouble finding a doctor to assist them.

“Doctors may have inadequate protection and I expect in these early days, many physicians will be extremely reluctant to provide assistance to patients wanting medical assistance in dying,” Philpott told a roomful of health-care professionals in a speech to the National Health Leadership Conference on Monday.

The minister reminded the audience that doctor-assisted dying is about to become legal — effective at midnight tonight, her office said — after the federal government missed a Monday deadline set by the Supreme Court for enacting a law in response to its ruling on physician-assisted death.

“Unfortunately, despite tremendous effort, this bill is not yet in place,” Philpott.

“That means that, effective tomorrow, you may be asked to do something that has never been expected of you before _ to help people end their lives. It’s a daunting prospect.”

Medical regulators in every province have already issued guidelines for physicians on providing assistance in dying, based on the eligibility criteria outlined by the court.

Those rules impose safeguards similar to — and in some cases, even stronger than — those proposed in the government bill, C-14.

But Philpott said those guidelines are not enough.

“While I have faith in Canada’s health-care providers to carry out these responsibilities responsibly and ethically, I believe that regulatory guidance alone is insufficient, given the nature of what you will be asked to do,” Philpott said.

And those guidelines do not apply to everyone, Philpott said.

“Nurses, pharmacists and others who assist doctors will not have the guidance or protection they need,” she said.

She also noted the guidelines vary from province to province.

“We will have a patchwork approach to protection of the vulnerable, as safeguards vary across the country,” she said.

“We will lack standard criteria for who is eligible,” she said.

Philpott reminded the room that she, too, is a doctor and has experience helping patients deal with end-of-life issues.

“Like many of you, I have spent many hours with people who are suffering. Like many of you, I have watched people die. Some of those deaths, I will never forget,” said Philpott, who also devoted a significant portion of her speech to the need for better palliative care.

She later declined to tell reporters what her advice would be to fellow doctors on whether to proceed with physician-assisted dying without legislation in place. She said they should contact their professional associations for advice. She urged the doctors to continue voicing their support for C-14, which is now in the Senate.

Senators are expected to hear today from renowned constitutional expert Peter Hogg, who will say C-14 does not comply with the Supreme Court ruling because it restricts access to people who are already near death.

Philpott told reporters the bill is constitutional.

“We firmly support the fact that this piece of legislation is compliant to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Canada, that it responds in an appropriate and responsible way to the Carter decision and there has been no shortage of consultation with experts,” she said.


Jane Philpott on dying requests: ‘It’s a daunting prospect’

  1. The assisted suicide option the federal government is considering must include the rapidly increasing number of people suffering from dementia, people who would choose this avenue before or in the early stages of the dread condition that is always terminal anyway.
    You ought to see what doctors do to dementia patients — load them with a cocktail of zombie drugs and pat themselves on the back because they have done exactly what the medical system demands, which is to turn dementia patients into the living dead; corpses that breath but little more. Damn them. Damn the system which not only needs to be totally overhauled but forced into new non-drug research that might lead to a successful way to rewire the brain into a well thinking organ that, perhaps, is better than the average brain that has not been helped. But this won’t happen because the mental health profession, especially dealing with diseases like dementia which are hitting people at young and younger ages, places its self-interest ahead of those of the patients it is supposed to help. Damn them.
    Pierre Trudeau’s Dementia Led Him To Turn Down Cancer Treatment
    The Huffington Post Canada
    Posted: 03/06/2013

    Pierre Trudeau chose not to be treated for metastasized prostate cancer after he was diagnosed with dementia, a new Huffington Post Canada ebook reveals. The cancer could have been treated, but the former prime minister wanted the disease to claim him before he lost his mind.
    The previously unknown information about Trudeau’s last months was published for the first time this week in Contender: The Justin Trudeau Story, a new ebook by HuffPost Canada’s Althia Raj (download it for free here.)
    According to the New York Times, Trudeau was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, which often leads to dementia. He died on Sept. 28, 2000.
    After deciding to leave the cancer untreated, Pierre and his boys, Alexandre (Sacha) and Justin, planned the last six months of the former prime minister’s life, said Raj, who conducted extensive interviews for the book with Trudeau family and friends.
    In an interview with The Canadian Press, Justin Trudeau said he does not dispute the account,
    “The characterization in the book is certainly not something that I would say is false,” Trudeau said. “It’s not anything that my father said explicitly to me. He may have said it to some other people.”
    “But for me, it was fairly clear that he was very much at peace with the end of his life approaching and certainly wasn’t interested in losing his quality of life, physically and mentally, and prolonging the process
    “He remained extremely lucid right up until the very end.”

  2. As of today we have no laws on assisted dying

    I hope it remains that way

    We should no longer torture people. It’s a barbaric cultural practice

  3. Why didn’t the Liberal government just write Bill C-14 to mirror
    the Supreme Court ruling? What are they afraid of?

    • Cons were told to do this a year ago.

      • What does that have to do with the Liberals. They also knew the SC deadline so if they are so much better at governing why did they miss the deadline?

        • They didn’t. The Con senate did.

          If you’re going to comment on here then you have to pay attention

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