Dying with Dignity Canada has much work to do after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of physician-assisted death.
The court gave federal and provincial governments 12 months to come up with new legislation surrounding the matter.
“We’ve got time to do it and we’re in a really good position because (other places) have already done a template. I just think we’ve got such an opportunity,” says Sheilia Sperry, DWDC’s Nova Scotia chapter leader.
While politicians hash out the logistics for new legislation, Sperry says she will be busy prompting people to write those same politicians.
“Now is our chance to tell them what we want,” she says.
Jacqueline Gahagan, a health promotion professor at Dalhousie University as well as a member of DWDC, says there is still a “moral and mental blockage” in dealing with assisted death.
“The buzz around this is concerns from communities where individuals may have physical or mental challenges… The focus is not on the Supreme Court decision but on this moral panic around will this open the floodgates for euthanizing [vulnerable] people,” she says.
One of the things Sperry, and DWDC as a whole, have been advocating is for people to sit down and write out a continuing care directive. This directive is a document which names a delegate and describes your wishes for end-of-life care.
It will be important for the new legislation to recognize the legality of this document, says Sperry. “When you can no longer speak, your delegate is you,” she adds.
Both Sperry and Gahagan have lost spouses to terminal illnesses; both said their partners wished they would have been allowed to end their life earlier. “There comes a point in everybody’s life where the only thing that will ease your suffering is death,” says Sperry.
The next step for DWDC, says Sperry, is more campaigning for the new legislation to reflect the nuances of assisted death. “It’s going to come down to a case-by-case analysis. It has to because every single individual, their circumstances are different,” she says.
“What we’ve been doing for the last 30 years is knocking at the door and trying the get somebody to open the door. And, finally, the Supreme Court said ‘OK, come on in’.”