British Columbia, Ontario release statements on medical assistance in dying

Medical-Assisted death is now legal in Canada.  In February, 2105 the Supreme Court passed a unanimous ruling overturns the bans on doctor-assisted suicide. It gave Parliament until June 6, 2016 to pass legislation that would legalise the practise in specific cases where patients suffer from a terminal illness.

The result was the government’s Bill C-14. The legislation creates exemptions under the Criminal Code of Canada in order to allow medical staff and pharmacists to help people with fatal illnesses to die.  It allows for reviews in the case of minors with a fatal illness, and where mental health is an underlying cause.

The government missed the deadline to pass the legislation. “Patients who wish to access medical assistance in dying should talk with their health care provider. Health care providers should consult their regulatory colleges about any rules, guidelines or practices regarding medical assistance in dying,” Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins said in a statement released yesterday.

Health & Long-Term Care Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins
Health & Long-Term Care Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins

The failure to meet the deadline puts Assisted Suicide in a legal “grey area.”  Hoskins says Ontario’s regulatory colleges will help healthcare providers.  “Ontario will also ensure that drugs required for medical assisted dying will be available at no extra cost,” he said.  The province will also take an extra step by establishing a referral service to help doctors unwilling or unable to provide this service with doctors who are.

British Columbia is looking to the Supreme Court ruling for guidance.  The Ministers of Health, and Attorney General have announced they are strengthening their regulatory colleges.  “This provides clearer direction to doctors on determining eligibility and following the most appropriate and safe procedures,” they said in a joint statement.  Additionally they have also asked that each health authority to appoint a coordinator for medical assistance in dying.

Bill C-14 is in the hands of a Senate committee where changes are expected.