Lake studying SCC decision on doctor-assisted suicide

Provincial government closely studying a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on assisted suicide

By Dale Bass

Kamloops This Week

The provincial government will be closely studying a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on assisted suicide.

Health Minister Terry Lake said he’ll be looking to see what the implications are on the provision of health care in the province and what his ministry might need to do.

The ruling on Feb. 6 would allow people with grievous and incurable enduring medical conditions who are clearly competent to make the decision to end their lives with the help of a doctor.

The ruling was a unanimous one, signed by all of the Supreme Court’s justices — an unusual step interpreted to show how strongly they feel.

It gives the federal and provincial governments 12 months to develop appropriate legislation and keeps the ban on doctor-assisted suicide in place for that time.

Lake said one of the tasks he had already been given by Premier Christy Clark is to investigate and ensure B.C. provides “very good end-of-life care and we’re working hard on that.”

The Kamloops-North Thompson MLA pointed to the B.C. Centre for Palliative Care as one key component in providing quality end-of-life health care.

The Vancouver centre promotes education and awareness on the end-of-life care issues, including helping develop practices and policies.

The province also has an End-of-Life Care Action Plan that also establishes priorities and actions to guide health authorities, physicians and other health-care providers who work in hospice and palliative situations.

Lake said the ruling on a case brought forward by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association on behalf of two women who have since died will be seen by many people as providing more options for people whose medical conditions are intolerable, chronic and, ultimately fatal.

Lake said discussing the implications of the ruling with his colleagues will be interesting.

“Obviously, it’s an emotional issue,” he said.