Many of our members have followed the Dying with Dignity movement for awhile now, and all seemed victorious when last year the Supreme Court gave a 1 year notice of Physician Assisted Dying becoming legal. The legislation was meant to commence on February 6th this year, but our last federal government didn’t do enough to gather information from various groups in order to enact it in time, so when the new Liberal government took over they requested an extension. It was granted and the time frame extended to June 6th, 2016. As of June 6th, PAD will become legal, regardless of what legislation is in place.
In Alberta we have a slight problem though. The vast majority of people who request PAD are already in palliative care, at the end of their lives. The majority of palliative care beds in Alberta are owned and run by the publicly funded Catholic Covenant Health group. The church has stated that Physician Assisted Dying is against their Catholic teachings and will not be provided at their hospital. Here’s the issue though…you don’t get to pick which bed you are given so you can’t request a non-catholic bed, you are just assigned.
The Catholic Bishops of Alberta released this statement:
We want to be clear that, from a Catholic perspective, the intentional, willful act of killing oneself or another human being is morally wrong. Therefore, no Catholic may advocate for, or participate in any way, whether by act or omission, in the intentional killing of another human being either by assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Just this past week a Calgary woman was granted an exemption to the June 6th date but she had to travel to Vancouver to finally end her life. This raises the issue of access to the right to die with dignity in Alberta.
So what can we do to help?
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta currently have two campaigns where you can leave your feedback and views on PAD. Help shape these policies! Informed Consent and Conscientious Objection are available to be filled out until March 7th. Dying with Dignity Canada have some recommendations in their toolkit to help you fill out these forms.
Alberta Health is also looking for your feedback, you can fill out their form until March 31st.
You can also write to your MLA and lend your support to the movement.