Physician Assisted Dying
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Navigating a New Canadian Right
On Feb. 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s Criminal Code prohibition on physician assisted dying. In their unanimous decision, the justices on the high court ruled that the decades old ban violated Canadians’ Charter rights to life, liberty and security of the person, and thus, it could not stand. When it comes into effect in June, the Supreme Court’s will establish choice in dying as a right for all Canadians.
But whether desperately ill patients who qualify under the criteria, set out in the judgment, competent adult patients who are suffering intolerably as the result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition and who clearly consent to the termination of life remains to be seen. Right to die activists charge that the federal government’s new assisted dying bill is overly restrictive and doesn’t meet minimum standard laid out in the Supreme Court’s decision. The wording of Bill 14 raises questions about whether Canadians with excruciating chronic illnesses but who are not actively dying will be forced to endure many months or even years of unwanted intolerable suffering because their natural death is not reasonably foreseeable. Other people, not surprisingly, view this proposed new law as a slippery slope with potential unforeseen consequences.
With less than two months until the Supreme Court’s decision comes effect, a panel will explore what the new legislation will mean for the right to die movement in Canada and for ordinary Canadians who are exploring their options for end of life. Questions that may be addressed include: Who will have access? Will the rules for assisted dying vary greatly from province to province? Where do we go from here? What does it mean for us as Canadians to have, if worse comes to worst, ultimate say over the end of our lives?
Panelists will include:
Dr. James Downar, critical and palliative care physician, University Health Network, and program director for the Conjoint Program in Palliative Care Medicine, University of Toronto
Shanaaz Gokool, CEO, Dying With Dignity Canada
Piya Chattopadhyay, Host, CBC Radio and TVO Television
Dr. James Downar is a critical care and palliative care physician at the University Health Network in Toronto. He graduated from McGill Medical School and completed residency training in internal medicine, critical care and palliative care at the University of Toronto. He has a master’s degree in bioethics from the Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto. He is also the current chair of the Postgraduate Education Committee of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians.
Shanaaz Gokool is the CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada, the leading organization helping Canadians avoid unwanted, unnecessary suffering at end of life. Before that, she held the dual role of Chief Operating Officer and National Campaigns Director for DWDC. Shanaaz has over 15 years’ experience in operations management in the private and not for profit sectors. She has worked in organizational systems implementation in the areas of financial and budgetary management, human resources and risk management. As a human rights activist, she has led numerous grassroots initiatives in the Greater Toronto area, including her role as Chair of Amnesty International Toronto Organization, AITO, between 2009 and 2014. She is an active member of Amnesty International Canada’s Speaker’s Bureau.
Piya Chattopadhyay is a familiar voice on CBC Radio. She’s been described as a swiss army knife for her versatility in filling in as host of a number of flag ship shows, including The Current, q, The World at Six and Toronto’s morning show, Metro Morning.
Piya also as a guest host for TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin.
Piya also spent more than a decade in the field as a news reporter here in Canada, and was often on the road, reporting from abroad on numerous assignments for CBC. She has reported from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, India, the U.K. and France, to name but a few.
In 2007, Chattopadhyay decided to take on a new adventure and moved to Jerusalem where she first freelanced for CBC, PRI and the BBC, before taking on the role of Middle East Correspondent for Fox News Radio.
During her three years in the region, she travelled to numerous countries, covering stories ranging from war and conflict, peace and politics, to coping and everyday life.
In her off air life, Chattopadhyay has three young children, and is married to fellow CBC journalist Peter Armstrong.
Beginning next month, May, Piya Chattopadhyay will host a new, weekly show for CBC Radio.