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Health Law Can. 2016 Feb;36(3):120-38.

Navigating "Assisted Dying".

Abstract

Carter is a bellwether decision, an adjudication on a narrow point of law whose implications are vast across society, and whose impact may not be realized for years. Coupled with Quebec's Act Respecting End-of-life Care it has sharply changed the legal landscape with respect to actively ending a person's life. "Medically assisted dying" will be permitted under circumstances, and through processes, which have yet to be operationally defined. This decision carries with it moral assumptions, which mean that it will be difficult to reach a unifying consensus. For some, the decision and Act reflect a modern acknowledgement of individual autonomy. For others, allowing such acts is morally unspeakable. Having opened the Pandora's Box, the question becomes one of navigating a tolerable societal path. I believe it is possible to achieve a workable solution based on the core principle that "medically assisted dying" should be a very rarely employed last option, subject to transparent ongoing review, specifically as to why it was deemed necessary. My analysis is based on 1. The societal conditions in which have fostered demand for "assisted dying", 2. Actions in other jurisdictions, 3. Carter and Quebec Bill 52, 4. Political considerations, 5. Current medical practice. Leading to a series of recommendations regarding. 1. Legislation and regulation, 2. The role of professional regulatory agencies, 3. Medical professions education and practice, 4. Public education, 5. Health care delivery and palliative care. Given the burden of public opinion, and the legal steps already taken, a process for assisted-dying is required. However, those legal and regulatory steps should only be considered a necessary and defensive first step in a two stage process. The larger goal, the second step, is to drive the improvement of care, and thus minimize assisted-dying.

PMID:
27169205
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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