Provinces, Territories Establish Expert Advisory Group On Physician-Assisted Dying
Ontario Leading Provincial-Territorial Co-Ordination to Seek Advice from Experts
Ontario, in collaboration with participating provinces and territories, is establishing an expert advisory group on physician-assisted dying, with a focus on the needs of patients and their families.
In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the federal law prohibiting physician-assisted dying. The federal government has since established an external panel to inform its legislative response to the Supreme Court's decision.
To complement the work of the federal panel, 11 provinces and territories are establishing an expert advisory group on physician-assisted dying which will be led by Ontario. As provinces and territories have the primary responsibility to provide health care, including regulating physicians and health care facilities, they will consider whether regulatory or other changes are needed over the coming months in response to the Supreme Court's decision.
The advisory group will provide advice on the development of policies, practices and safeguards for provinces and territories to consider when physician-assisted dying is legal within their respective jurisdictions.
The advisory group will be co-chaired by Dr. Jennifer Gibson, Director of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, and Maureen Taylor, medical journalist and physician assistant in infectious disease. In formulating its advice, this group will consult organizations and others with relevant expertise from participating provinces and territories.
Independent of the provincial-territorial expert advisory group, the Ontario government is also inviting Ontarians to share their views on physician-assisted dying and end-of-life care through in-person consultations and an online survey. Ontarians can provide their input on key issues including safeguards to protect vulnerable people, the impact on families and caregivers, and the role of health care providers in the provision of physician-assisted dying.
The Supreme Court of Canada suspended its ruling for 12 months. Federal, provincial and territorial governments have until February 2016 to implement responses in advance of the Supreme Court decision on physician-assisted dying taking effect.
- The provincial-territorial expert advisory group is expected to complete its final report before the end of 2015, but may require more time if the federal government is considering changes to the Criminal Code.
- Ontario is also developing a comprehensive strategy on end-of-life care that will focus on ensuring access to coordinated palliative care where patients want it and supporting families and caregivers.
- John Fraser, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, has been traveling across Ontario consulting with stakeholders, including patient groups, caregivers and health care providers, to help inform the development of a comprehensive strategy on palliative and end-of-life care.
“End-of-life care and physician-assisted dying are challenging and sensitive issues for patients, families and health care providers. Ontario is committed to providing care with compassion and dignity, in a way that always puts patients first.”
Dr. Eric Hoskins
“It is important that governments across Canada work together and have a frank and open discussion on this significant issue. Ontario is focused on developing a clear and informed approach that addresses the Supreme Court’s decision on physician-assisted dying.”
“Canadians across the country have said they want options for end-of-life care, including the option of physician-assisted dying. Individual choice, patient access and protection of vulnerable populations will be key considerations as we examine how physician-assisted dying will be integrated into our health care system.”
“The panel will thoroughly study the many policy and implementation questions related to physician-assisted dying. We look forward to hearing from leaders, experts and practitioners in medicine, health professions, law and ethics on this important national health care issue.”
Dr. Jennifer Gibson