By Ellen Arkfeld

Recently, the committee of the Canadian parliament has recommended that the federal government make assisted dying legal for conditions including mental illness.  New euthanasia laws are being crafted because the Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting physician-assisted death is unconstitutional in Carter v. Canada last February.

A poll by Insights West has found that over three quarters of Canadians are in favor of the new euthanasia law. But those in favor still have questions regarding how the laws will be implemented.

Patients must be assessed by two doctors who will determine that they are able to provide informed consent.  The Supreme Court did not specify an age limit, but the committee plans to expand the laws currently intended only for adults to include minors after the first laws have been in place for at least three years.   All publically funded facilities, including faith-based institutions, will be required to provide euthanasia.

Details of the laws’ implementation are still being debated. Currently, the law has provisions for physicians who wish to be conscientious objectors, but the Canadian Medical Association would have physicians refer patients for the procedures whether or not they object.

The Catholic Bishops of Alberta released a statement in February denouncing the new laws, and saying that that killing is not medicine.  They demanded that Alberta’s government consult all Albertans on the issue, that Catholic doctors should have the right to choose not to assist a patient’s death, and argued for stronger protections for vulnerable persons.

The Canadian Supreme Court has not ruled whether or not individual physicians must be required to refer patients.

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