Oak Bay town hall talks assisted suicide

MP stands by palliative care concerns, recommendations

With the “emotionally challenging” report set before parliament, Victoria MP Murray Rankin is ready to talk assisted suicide with constituents.

“This is about providing more safe choices for people at the end of their life,” said Rankin, vice-chair of the parliament’s special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, a response to a Supreme Court of Canada decision last year that a ban on physician-assisted dying violated Canadians’ charter rights.

“It was a very emotional and demanding role to play but we had to do it.”

The committee submitted a 70-page report Feb. 25 that outlines 21 recommendations and includes 10 safeguards for “those who worry this will be abused,” Rankin said.

“We feel we’ve got the balance right … protection of vulnerable but the right Canadians have to exercise the choice to end their life in very specific circumstances.”

That includes those with grievous and irremediable injury or diagnosis; enduring suffering; and that a minimum two physicians independent of each other confirm competency of someone to make that decision.

“Government has to go look at the report and draft a bill that has to pass the house and the senate and get the governor general’s signature by June 6,” Rankin said. He hopes to see the draft legislation within three weeks.

Palliative care continues to be a concern for Rankin, and is a part of the report. “It’s a mish-mash. Victoria has had a successful hospice but other parts of the country have just had very little,” said Rankin who hopes to see national funding and a secretariat on palliative and end-of-life care. Rankin hopes to see the entire report represented in any legislation put forward.

“If palliative care measures aren’t in there I won’t support it,” he said.

He hopes to hear all sides of the issue from residents during a town hall in Oak Bay this week.

“I honestly think that we got the balance right,” Rankin said. “There will be some who say we don’t. We will have the benefit of those people’s views when we go back to debate the actual bill.”

The community panel will feature Rankin, Ellen Agger, co-chair Victoria Chapter, Dying with Dignity Canada and Dr. Douglas McGregor, medical director for Victoria Hospice.

“There’s a lot of interest … I hope we’ll have a good dialogue,” Rankin said.

The town hall is March 5 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Oak Bay United Church, 1355 Mitchell St.