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CACL endorses Vulnerable Persons Standard to protect vulnerable Canadians in right-to-die legislation

Over 35 community and health organizations from across Canada, including CACL and many of its members, are calling on Parliament to adopt a series of evidence-based safeguards designed to protect the lives of vulnerable Canadians – and we need your support!

The Standard is picking up momentum as individuals and organizations across the country come together to endorse and promote it. You can be an important part of that momentum. We encourage you to sign on personally as an individual supporter of the Standard, and to encourage friends and allies to do the same. We are honoured to be standing with you on this critical issue.

The Vulnerable Persons Standard has been developed by leading Canadian physicians, health professionals, lawyers, ethicists, public policy experts and national representative organizations for people with disabilities and the needs of vulnerable persons. 

The Standard will ensure that policies designed to help Canadians requesting assistance from physicians to end their life do not jeopardize the lives of vulnerable persons who may be subject to coercion and abuse. 

"The federal government needs to exercise wisdom in striking a balance between equitable access and appropriate safeguards for people whose physical, emotional, cognitive or social vulnerability may make them more susceptible to suicide," says Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care and Former Chair of the 'Federal External Panel' on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v Canada, and an adviser to the Standard. 

The Standards requires that: 

1. Legislation concerning physician-assisted death must not perpetuate disadvantage or contribute to social vulnerability. 

2. The patient face end-of-life conditions with no chance of improvement and has enduring and intolerable suffering as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition. 

3. Voluntary and capable request and consent by the patient including immediately prior to death. This prohibits the use of advance directives for physician-assisted death. 

4. An assessment of suffering and vulnerability that may arise from psychosocial or non- medical conditions and circumstance. 

5. Arms-length authorization be obtained from a judge or independent body with expertise in the fields of health care, ethics and law. "The recommendations contained in the Joint Parliamentary report on medically-assisted dying should give all Canadians pause. They would remove virtually all restrictions on accessing physician-assisted death and significantly exceed the guidance provided by Canada's Supreme Court," says Tony Dolan, Chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, one of the organizations supporting the Standard. 

The Vulnerable Persons Standard is available at www.vps-npv.ca. Organizations and individuals wishing to endorse the Standard can sign on at the website above under “Support the Standard”.