External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada

News Releases

Canadians have an opportunity to be heard on the issue of physician-assisted dying

August 28, 2015 – Ottawa, ON

The External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada is pleased to announce the launch of its online questionnaire that will gather input from Canadians on the very important subject of physician-assisted dying in Canada.

The Panel's "Issue Book" provides Canadians with the opportunity to have a voice in shaping how the different types of physician-assisted dying (assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia) will be implemented in Canada. The questionnaire allows individuals to express their views on important questions relating to who should be eligible for physician-assisted dying in Canada and what rules and safeguards should be put in place to reduce the risks to individuals and society.

Before completing the online questionnaire, Canadians are invited to review other online tools on the Panel's website to learn more about assisted suicide, voluntary euthanasia and other end-of-life care practices, including palliative care. Participants can also gain insight into the conditions under which physician-assisted dying is allowed in certain US states and countries, before providing their considered input on this emotional and legally complex issue.

"Panel members are interested in having a respectful and open discussion with Canadians that is as inclusive of the diversity of opinions on the subject as possible," said Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, Chair of the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada. "These questions, and the heartfelt answers of Canadians, are extremely important as we work towards developing a complete set of options for the government to consider when responding to this issue."

Canadians are encouraged to provide their input to the Issue Book by October 11, 2015. All answers are confidential and no personal identifying information is collected throughout the questionnaire.

The External Panel was established by the federal government on July 17, 2015. The Panel's mandate focuses specifically on issues that are fundamental to a federal legislative response to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Carter v. Canada. All views gathered through online and direct consultations will contribute to the Panel's final report to the Ministers of Justice and Health due in the fall of 2015.

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Federal Panel on Physician-Assisted Dying Begins European Study

September 4, 2015 – Ottawa, ON

The Expert Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada is in Europe to explore how physician-assisted dying is regulated in three European countries - the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.

During their 11-day tour, panel members will participate in over 25 meetings with government officials as well as experts in the fields of medicine, law, ethics and human rights to discuss issues that are fundamental to developing a federal legislative response to the Supreme Court of Canada's Carter v. Canada ruling.

The Panel will also examine legislation regulating physician-assisted dying in these three jurisdictions, with a focus on the main eligibility requirements for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, the risks to individuals and society, and safeguards to address risks for both patients and physicians.

"We are consulting as broadly and deeply as our mandate and time allow," said Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, Chair of the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada. "It is critical that we learn all that we can from countries with experience in euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide."

The European study is part of a larger program of consultation that includes a national online consultation with Canadians, meetings with expert groups and individuals, and in-person consultations that are set to resume immediately following the federal election.

Through these tools, participants can learn more about assisted suicide, voluntary euthanasia and other end-of-life care practices available to Canadians including palliative care. The Issue Book will continue to gather input from Canadians until October 11, 2015. It will provide an opportunity for the greatest number of people, representing a broad range of views, to be heard on this important issue.

"We are making every effort to fulfil our mandate in the months ahead," said Dr. Chochinov. "This includes doing everything within our power to ensure meaningful consultations with Canadians on this important issue."

Over the next few months, panel members will be paying careful attention to what Canadians and stakeholders have to say about the implementation of assisted dying practices. They will be analysing and assessing online input and submissions received via the Panel's website and continuing to review relevant research to inform their final report on legislative options for the government to consider.

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Federal Panel gains insight into assisted dying practices in European countries

September 21, 2015 – Ottawa, ON

The External Panel that has been established to provide the federal government with options for responding to the Carter v. Canada ruling has returned from its 11-day study of how physician-assisted dying has been implemented in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.

During the study, panel members met with a broad range of experts including physicians, lawyers, government officials, members of parliament and professors in the fields of biomedical ethics, palliative care and assisted dying.

Panel members also met with two major groups offering assisted dying services: Dignitas, a Swiss group helping those, including foreigners, with terminal illness and severe physical and mental illnesses to die; and EXIT, an aid-in-dying organization that helps people plan for the end of their life with the best available information and support of family and friends.

"We learned a tremendous amount from experts who have a great deal of experience with end-of-life regimes in their countries," said Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, Chair of the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada. "The Panel will use the information to better focus discussions here and to come up with thoughtful options for the government on the best way forward for Canadians."

The European study is part of a larger dialogue on physician-assisted dying that includes a national online consultation with Canadians www.ep-ce.ca/consultation, meetings with expert groups and individuals, as well as in-person consultations set to resume following the federal election.

The Panel's online questionnaire, The Issue Book, is continuing to gather input from Canadians until October 11, 2015. It provides an opportunity for the greatest number of people, representing a broad range of views, to be heard on this important issue. Individuals and organizations can also continue to send written submissions to the Panel, via its www.externalpanel.ca website, until that date.

"We are consulting as widely as possible within the time available, particularly through our online consultation that is open to all Canadians," said Dr. Max Chochinov. "We want to ensure a diverse range of views on this heartfelt issue, so we can develop workable and well thought-out legislative options for assisted dying in Canada.">

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Federal Panel Studies U.S. Approach to Physician-Assisted Dying

October 7, 2015 – Ottawa, ON

The External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada has returned from its fact-finding trip to Portland, Oregon, where it learned how assisted dying, which has been legal there for nearly 20 years, is practiced.

During their three-day visit, Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, Chair of the Panel, Benoît Pelletier and Catherine Frazee met with nine individuals and organizations to discuss the implementation and operation of assisted dying in Oregon. Panel members engaged in discussions with the co-author of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, as well as with experts from the medical profession and disability rights organizations. The Panel's fact-finding mission concluded with an exchange of ideas with Dr. Linda Ganzini, a prominent researcher in geriatric mental health, end-of-life care, and palliative care for the terminally ill.

"We were impressed by the discussions we had with experts from a range of disciplines," said Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, Chair of the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada. "The insight they provided has given us a more thorough understanding of Oregon's Act. These consultations are of great importance to the Panel's work in developing effective options for the government to consider when developing well-crafted laws for Canadians."

The Oregon mission was a follow up to the Panel's previous study of physician-assisted dying in three European countries - Belgium, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. Both are part of a larger program of consultation that includes a national online consultation with Canadians, meetings with expert groups and individuals, and in-person consultations set to resume immediately following the federal election.

Canadians are encouraged to provide their insights to the Panel on how physician-assisted dying can be implemented in Canada. The deadline for receiving input from Canadians through the Panel's Issue Book has been extended until November 1, 2015.

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