Free Public Lecture Examines the Ethical Issues Surrounding Doctor-Assisted Suicide

April 18, 2016 - 3:45pm

Doctor-assisted deaths are soon to become a legal reality in Canada, but the question remains: how do we best move forward with this option? This week, the federal government tabled new legislation on assisted dying that includes some restrictions on who qualifies, as well as safeguards to protect vulnerable Canadians.


On Thursday, April 21, Dr. Laura Shanner, a researcher and consultant in health care ethics, will discuss the new legislation, as well as the underlying reasoning used in the making of the bill, in the second part of a lecture series sponsored by Vancouver Island University (VIU) on the ethical foundations of doctor-assisted suicide. “I’ll summarize the legislative proposal, but the focus is on trying to gain clarity on the reasons for and against different options,” she explains.


A special parliamentary committee tasked with exploring the issue made several recommendations – some considered controversial – including that assisted death should not be limited to only physical conditions and that the right should be extended to “mature minors.” The bill tabled Thursday restricts assisted death to mentally competent adults who have serious and incurable illnesses, diseases or disabilities.


After deconstructing the new legislation, Shanner will delve into the details on how to move forward. “I’m afraid I won’t have very many answers. I have a lot of questions and there are a lot of concerns that we’re going to have to discuss.”


The broader question Shanner wants to discuss is what supports are or should be in place to make sure everything has been done to help a person before this option becomes available.


Shanner’s presentation will be followed by a discussion period, similar to the format of the first lecture. The first part of the two-part lecture series took place April 7 and focused on whether or not doctor-assisted suicide is ever acceptable, with Dr. Paul Kamill, a retired physician, and Dr. Oscar Clemotte, a VIU philosophy professor, delivering opposing viewpoints on the subject to a packed lecture hall. Join Shanner for part two on April 21 starting at 4 pm in Bldg. 200, Rm. 203 at VIU’s Nanaimo campus.

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