All About Estates

Update on End of Life

By now most of  us have heard that the Trudeau government is asking the Supreme Court to grant a six months extension to the deadline imposed last year as part of the Carter decision (see 2015 SCC 5).

What this means is still unclear but adds to the speculation that the Trudeau government will be doing something about this issue – after further consultation, rather than just letting the Criminal Code provisions expire without action. Good news in a much needed area of reform (on many levels) but we hope the daunting nature of the task does not result in no meaningful steps being taken. A risk is, however, that parliamentarians “expediting” doctor assisted death legislation with a six month deadline is as the Globe and Mail put it “death by bureaucracy”.

The timing of this news fit in with the Law Commission of Ontario’s announcement that it is undertaking a project that reviews Ontario’s law and policy framework for providing care to persons who as they describe it “are approaching death” and services for those who support them including caregivers, family members, friends and health care providers. As part of this initiative the LCO is funding 10 research papers that will inform the “development of options” for reform. One of the research topics surrounds informed consent, advance care planning and substitute decision making and what it being described as “practice tools” to ensure meaningful decision- making in the last stages of life. Another research topic surrounds policies and procedures to facilitate alternative dispute resolution for end of life decision making including “preventative approaches.”  Both these and more are deserving of reform review and ultimately reform.

Finally, also hitting the news was the decision of Quebec Superior Court Judge Michel Pinsonnault ruling that Quebec’s law that allows some terminally ill patients to end their lives with medical assistance contradicts the Criminal Code provisions that will now remain in place until February 6, 2016 if the government is granted a six month extension.

Some are not happy with further delay; some will not be happy when the government does what it will do, but, in the end one baby step, even if wobbling at the beginning, is what it takes; after all that is how all of us learned how to walk. Stay tuned.

Until next time,

Jasmine Sweatman

About Jasmine Sweatman