Write your MP to guarantee choice

The BC Humanist Association has written to all British Columbia Members of Parliament calling for legislation that ensures patients have access to compassionate end of life options.

After studying legislative options for physician-assisted dying, a Parliamentary committee recommended an approach that puts patients first. The BCHA is calling on MPs to adopt these recommendations and ensure that healthcare institutions that receive public funding are required to provide choice in dying.

You can use Dying With Dignity Canada's website to send an email to your MP today. Feel free to incorporate any of our points below.

The British Columbia Humanist Association supports the right of any individual who has made a clear decision, free from coercion, to choose a physician-assisted death. We urge all Members of Parliament to implement the strong and compassionate recommendations of the Special Joint Parliamentary Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying. These recommendations, when enshrined in legislation, will guarantee fair, safe and timely access to physician-assisted dying for Canada's most desperately ill patients.

The overwhelming majority of Canadians support physician-assisted dying. That support is nearly universal among Canada’s growing non-religious community, who we represent. Our constituency strongly supports an individual’s free choice to live and die as they choose, so long as it doesn’t harm or infringe upon others. Surveys have also found that 80% of Christians and 83% of Catholics support assisted dying, showing that the so-called moral leaders of many religious communities are offside of their own congregations.

We support the right of anyone mature enough to give an informed and voluntary consent to choose a physician-assisted death. These individuals should be able to make this request in advance, for example while still competent but facing a diagnosis of dementia. Safeguards, like having two independent physicians confirm that decisions are free, voluntary and informed, will be essential to any regulatory regime but they must not make access unjustly difficulty. We do not support mandatory waiting periods or psychological assessments.

Universal access is already at risk as some publicly-funded health care institutions are positioning themselves to refuse to allow physician-assisted deaths in their facilities. These religious institutions in BC, like Providence Health Care in Metro Vancouver and St Joseph’s Hospital in Comox, received nearly $1 billion in public funding in 2015. This funding is entrusted to these institutions to provide equal and universal access to healthcare and should not be subject to the whims of an increasingly fringe group of church leadership. This refusal is an infringement on the rights of the patients who might choose an assisted death and the physicians working for these institutions who are prepared to provide their patients with that choice.

This is not just a hypothetical concern. If St Joseph’s refuses to provide its patients with an assisted death, people in suffering will be forced to travel at least 50 km away from their family, friends and support networks to the next nearest hospital in Campbell River to fulfill their Charter right. These institutional boycotts threaten to create a larger discrepancy in service than already exists in the provision of abortions in Canada. Such a challenge to access must be pre-empted by ensuring Canadians have universal access to their rights under the Carter decision. Funding should be removed from institutions that refuse to uphold these rights.

Finally, we believe that medical professionals have a responsibility to respect their patients’ autonomy and their dignity. Any medical professional with a personal objection to physician-assisted dying should not interfere with their patients’ right to choose an assisted death and should be required to provide an effective and timely referral to another professional.

It is time for Canada to take a leadership role on the right to die with dignity. Parliament should go beyond the Carter decision and make it the right of every individual in Canada to freely choose to end their life and to have access to the means to do so. If legislation and regulations unjustly limit access, the rights of individuals will be infringed, and, most critically, individuals will continue to suffer needlessly.



Ian Bushfield
Executive Director
BC Humanist Association

Since 1984, the British Columbia Humanist Association has campaigned for progressive and secular values. Humanism is a worldview that promotes human dignity without belief in a higher power. In 2013, we found that 64% of British Columbians do not practice a religion or faith. We believe that the promotion of human dignity requires allowing an individual to choose both how to live and how to end their life. People who have made the decision to end their life should have access to the means and assistance to do so with dignity. www.bchumanist.ca

Allow assisted dying for all who choose it http://www.bchumanist.ca/bcha_calls_on_parliamentary_committee_to_enshrine_assisted_dying_rights_in_healthcare_system

BC taxpayers gave $1 billion to religious hospitals in 2015 http://www.bchumanist.ca/bc_taxpayers_gave_1_billion_to_religious_hospitals_in_2015

2013 BC Religious and Secular Attitudes Poll http://www.bchumanist.ca/2013_bc_religious_and_secular_attitudes_poll

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