Every Canadian from coast to coast will soon be able to ask for medical help in ending their life if they meet a certain set of criteria, says Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott, but her government is also committed to improving access to palliative care to ease suffering.
Philpott joined Vassy Kapelos in the West Block Sunday to discuss the newly tabled Bill C-14, which outlines Ottawa’s approach to physician assisted death.
READ MORE: What you need to know about assisted dying in Canada
Philpott said the bill provides a framework for provinces and territories to build upon, and she is not concerned about a patchwork of different rules emerging across the country — especially when it comes to doctors and nurses choosing to opt out of helping patients die.
“We have made it clear that, for instance, specific individual health care providers will have the freedom to exercise their conscientious objection, if for some reason of conscience that they don’t want to participate,” the minister said.
“But we will make it clear to the provinces and territories that we know that Canadians need to have access to assistance in dying as one of a number of options for care at the end of life.”
The second pillar of the Liberal government’s approach to helping terminally ill Canadians will be increased funding for palliative and home care, Philpott added. The government had pledged $3 billion for these programs and services during the election campaign, and Philpott said it’s coming, but it will likely have to wait until the new Health Accord is in place.
“I’m hoping that (the Health Accord) is something we’ll be able to see finalized some time in 2017 as a general ballpark,” she said.
“I expect to meet with the other provincial and territorial health ministers in the next few months to have another face-to-face meeting just as we did in January. And palliative care will be high on the agenda because I’m really determined. I’ve heard loud and clear across the country that Canadians do not necessarily have the access to high quality palliative care … it’s not always there.”
WATCH: Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould outlines specific conditions required for those seeking assisted death
Bill C-14 must pass in the House of Commons before June 6, 2016 to avoid a legislative vacuum around medically assisted dying in Canada, which will no longer be illegal as of that date.
The bill was unveiled last week and met with harsh criticism from various groups for failing to ensure access to assisted death for the mentally ill, mature minors and people who wish to make their wish for a medically assisted death clear in an advanced directive.
Watch the full interview with Health Minister Jane Philpott above.