Legal experts and activists alike were angry Thursday when the Liberal government unveiled its assisted-dying law and, in the process, restricted access to assisted dying to a narrower-than-expected segment of the population.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario on Monday approved its interim guidelines for doctors who are approached by patients seeking help in dying before doctor-assisted suicide becomes legal nationwide on June 6.
Within an hour of a new federal law being tabled, critics were already lining up to blast it for excluding mature minors (children under 18), people who have been diagnosed with a degenerative illness like dementia that will affect their ability to consent to assisted death down the line, and people whose natural death is not “reasonably foreseeable.”
That last clause will exclude most Canadians suffering solely from a mental illness who wish to end their lives.
The CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, Shanaaz Gokool, expressed her “disappointment and despair” with a “narrow and discriminatory” piece of legislation.
“Millions of people are going to be told that there is no relief,” said Gokool.
“We expected this from the Harper government. We expected better from this Liberal government.”
Gokool fears the proposed law will mean that people with dementia or other catastrophic degenerative illnesses will face a cruel or inhumane choice.
“Either to take their own lives too early, while they may have months or even years of wonderful quality of life left, or to risk waiting until their bodies and minds betray them and spiral into what they would self-define as a horrific death.”
The Liberal government says they are going to appoint one or more independent bodies to study some outstanding issues not explicitly dealt with in the legislation.