Federal assisted death panel should be disbanded: advocacy groups

Groups want incoming Liberal government to collaborate with a provincial-territorial advisory group

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

OTTAWA — A three-member federal panel on assisted death created under the Conservative government should be disbanded, two advocacy groups argue.

Dying with Dignity Canada and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association put forward a blueprint with recommendations for leadership on physician-assisted death on Thursday, including a call for the panel to halt its work.

“It is necessary for a number of reasons,” said Wanda Morris, CEO of Dying with Dignity. “It could have been a worthwhile exercise to have a federal panel to look at this, but the panel that was appointed was three members, two of them have been openly opposed to assisted dying, so much so that they were actually witnesses for the Crown against legalization.”

The groups are also encouraging the incoming Liberal government to collaborate with a provincial-territorial advisory group also examining the issue.

“They’ve created a really stellar panel of experts … They haven’t just gone one way,” Morris said. “They’re really wrestling with the nuts and bolts in a way that just blows out of the water anything that the federal panel has done.”

Last February, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the right of clearly consenting adults who endure intolerable physical or mental suffering to end their lives with a physician’s help.

The court gave Parliament one year to come up with a set of laws to govern assisted suicide, though former justice minister Peter MacKay mused in June that the government _ Conservative or otherwise _ would require more time to address the decision.

In the summer, the federal government appointed the three-member panel.

It has defended its independence and has conducted research tours in Europe and Portland, Ore.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada have also released a declaration on euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The statement, endorsed by Jewish and Muslim leaders, advocates for palliative care and urges the federal, provincial and territorial governments to “enact and uphold laws that enhance human solidarity.”

The group held a news conference on Parliament Hill on Thursday.

“I personally would not be in favour of allowing any deaths, but given the fact that we live in a democratic society and laws are made to deal with extreme situations, then I would say we would have to respect the ones that are as limiting as possible,” said Terrence Prendergast, the archbishop of Ottawa.

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