Consultations on Physician-Assisted Dying - Summary of Results and Key Findings

Part V   Conclusion

Closing Reflections

All members of the Panel feel privileged to have been entrusted with the task assigned to us. Although many called our task daunting, we recognize what a great honour it was to be chosen to engage Canadians on such an important topic. We listened to the concerns and expectations of Canadians, and also sought guidance from experts in jurisdictions that permit various forms of physician-assisted dying.

Physician-assisted death is a complex, challenging and emotionally charged issue. The Panel observed very quickly that individuals’ views on the issue are dearly held. Every position the Panel heard—regardless of whether it supported or opposed physician-assisted dying—was informed by compassion, empathy and respect. We have endeavored to reflect, to the best of our ability in the time allotted us, the diversity and richness of these views.

We are convinced that implementing a safe and thoughtful physician-assisted dying framework with equitable access for eligible Canadians will require substantial cooperation between all Canadian jurisdictions. We are aware that the provinces and territories of Canada have worked hard towards establishing a framework. Medical regulators have also been diligent in their preparations.

Implementation will require expertise from many sectors. Our consultations have focused largely on the health care sector, but the Panel also collected valuable insight from the fields of law, ethics and civil society. These fields have a great deal to offer on the topic of physician-assisted death and their contributions should shape future policies. Further explorations within the health care sector will surely prove fruitful, as will additional efforts to engage people in fields such as social work and spiritual care.

An important goal in establishing a physician-assisted death framework in Canada should be moving toward consensus. There are divergent views on many aspects of physician-assisted dying, but there are also areas of growing consensus, including a recognition of the need for carefully considered safeguards, oversight and a strengthened palliative care framework to be developed in parallel with one that provides access to physician-assisted dying in accordance with the Carter decision. Whatever system is put in place should be rigorously researched and evaluated periodically to foster improvements, if necessary.

Canadians will soon have choices giving them greater control over how their lives will end. It is incumbent on Canadian society to ensure that those choices are informed, and addressed with consummate skill, compassion and respect.

Acknowledgments

First and foremost, we wish to thank and gratefully acknowledge the contributions of all those who gave their time to meet with the Panel and to share their insights and experience through our online consultations. Without exception, the presentations and submissions we have received were authentic, illuminating, and reflective of a genuine commitment to engage constructively on this profoundly important issue. The input we received has both humbled and inspired us. For your generous civic engagement in this shared exercise, we are sincerely and profoundly grateful.

Secretariat

Panel members were fortunate to have the assistance of a truly remarkable team of individuals drawn from Justice Canada, Health Canada and the Library of Parliament to support the work of the Panel. We are immensely grateful to Steve Mihorean, Executive Director of the Secretariat, and Scott Hamilton, Director of Operations. With endless skill, fortitude and good humor, both expertly maneuvered the Panel and its activities through many turbulent times, and the occasional calm, to meet its overly ambitious timelines for consulting with Canadians and delivering a professional and thoughtful report to Government. Our heartfelt appreciation also goes out to Rose Homier, Administrative Manager; Martin Ducharme, Senior Policy Analyst; Christine Roush, Senior Communications Strategist; Martha Butler, Lead Writer; Ben Sharpe, Communications Advisor; Michael Lorde, Research Analyst; Caroline Quesnel, Writer; Erin Virgint, Writer; and, Rozie Chaudhry, Administrative Officer.

Other Important Acknowledgments

Patricia Seeley made too many contributions to list, and in so many key ways, for which the Panel is indebted.

The Panel also wishes to thank and acknowledge the many other individuals and organizations who contributed to the success of its work. A number of private sector organizations helped with the design and operation of the Panel’s website, online consultations, media, editing and translation services, to name a few.

We are also immensely grateful to Michelle Douglas of Justice Canada for allowing us to access her impressive international network, who, together with Canadian mission staff in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland, made our European study mission the success it was.

Finally, we wish to gratefully acknowledge the kind support and assistance of many officials within Justice Canada, Health Canada and the Library of Parliament, for their expert briefings, guidance and support.

All errors and omissions are our own.

 

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