Audrey Parker, diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer which had metastasized to her bones and has a tumour on her brain, talks about life and death at her home in Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

No changes planned to assisted-death law, Ottawa says after dying woman’s plea

A non-profit group that advocates for the rights of dying Canadians says a Nova Scotia woman has “changed the national conversation” about medically assisted deaths in Canada

Ottawa remains confident in its assisted dying legislation, and doesn’t plan changes despite a Halifax woman’s deathbed plea, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Friday.

She said the government feels strongly the two-year-old legislation strikes the appropriate balance between the protection of people’s autonomy and safeguards for vulnerable people.

“We’re not considering changing something in the legislation,” Wilson-Raybould told reporters.

“We’re confident in the legislation that we brought forward, that it finds the right balance in terms of being able to access medical assistance in dying, protecting the autonomy of individuals to make the appropriate decisions for themselves as well as protecting vulnerable individuals.”

Audrey Parker, a terminally ill Halifax woman, ended her life Thursday with medical assistance, after issuing an impassioned deathbed plea urging lawmakers to change the legislation.

Diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2016, the 57-year-old woman had been approved for an assisted death but said the restrictive nature of the law forced her to end her life sooner than she would have liked.

Related: Advocate dies ‘peacefully’ after plea for changes to Canada’s assisted-death law

Related: Federal health minister responds to dying woman’s pleas to change law

Parker stressed the law had to be changed because anyone approved for a medically assisted death must be conscious and mentally sound at the moment they grant their final consent for a lethal injection.

The issue will be among those considered in a report being drafted by a panel of experts, which is due by the end of the year but is not expected to make recommendations.

“We’re looking forward to receiving those reports back on mature minors, on advance directives, and on mental illness alone as an indicator for medical assistance in dying, and we’ll review those reports when we get them,” said Wilson-Raybould.

She said her heart went out to Parker and her family.

Parker was given a lethal injection and “died peacefully” in her Halifax apartment, surrounded by close friends and family.

“I wanted to make it to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, my favourite time of the year, but I lost that opportunity because of a poorly thought-out federal law,” Parker wrote in a Facebook post hours before her death.

She asked people to send emails or texts to their member of Parliament to encourage them to amend the law to help people in her category, which she described as “assessed and approved.”

Meanwhile, Dying With Dignity Canada spokesman Cory Ruf questioned why the government was being so definitive in its stance only a day after Parker’s death.

“It appears callous for the government to so quickly dismiss the lessons of her story,” Ruf said in an interview.

“It’s interesting that the justice minister used the word vulnerable. People who qualify for assisted dying, who’ve been assessed and approved for assisted dying, are vulnerable.”

Ruf said his organization questions the government’s suggestion that the rule that forces people to confirm their wishes before being assisted in death protects the vulnerable.

“In fact Audrey’s story shows us that it does the opposite,” he said.

Ruf said his organization is determined to continue a fight that doesn’t end with Parker’s death.

“More stories like Audrey’s are going to come their (the government’s) way,” he said. “Her story, the decision she faced at end of life is not unique and government knows that.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Agassiz Community Health Centre welcomes its newest doctor

Nikki Cohen is one of three doctors practicing at the local health clinic

No home for Agassiz Community Garden on school district land

The garden is still homeless after SD78 said no to the society using the McCaffrey School property

Life rings, signs to improve safety on Harrison waterfront

Harrison council approved $125,000 in aquatic safety projects for the beach

PHOTOS: Harrison students take on the Bunny Run

Harrison Hot Springs Elementary students dressed up for the Easter event

No more mobile vendors on Harrison beach

The approval of an updated business licence bylaw means Nolan Irwin is without a cart

VIDEO: Agassiz, Harrison celebrate National Pet Day

From cats and dogs to lizards and chickens, residents showed off the animals that enrich their lives

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

Police say ‘no major incidents’ at 4/20, Vancouver Park Board assessing

The first smoke-out held since legalization saw 60,000 people at Vancouver’s Sunset Beach

VIDEO: Langley firefighters spend hours battling blaze in vacant home

Cause of the late-night fire in Willoughby is still under investigation

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

RCMP looking for witnesses to four-vehicle crash in Burnaby

Police suspect impaired driving was a contributing factor

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Most Read