Webcast archive: Federal expert panel update

This week, we discuss the changes made to the federal expert panel.

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck and Christian Debray discuss:

  • The federal expert panel’s mandate is changed and deadline extended
  • In its five-year palliative care plan, Québec’s health minister attacks palliative care
  • A video by The Economist encourages euthanasia to prevent suicide

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.


  • On November 14, the federal Ministers of Justice and Health announced that they were extending the deadline for the report from the federal panel on assisted dying, from November 15 to December 15.
  • Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Health Minister Jane Philpot also announced that they were changing the mandate of the committee.  Instead of making recommendations for legislation, the committee will simply be reporting on the results of the national consultation on assisted dying.
  • This is bad news, since the provincial panel, which will produce its report by the end of November, will most certainly suggest legislative measures to be adopted by parliament.
  • The federal panel, which includes a person with a disability and a palliative care specialist, would be more likely to present measures geared toward strong safeguards and limiting the potential harm to people in vulnerable circumstances.  Without this mandate, even if they do make legislative proposals, such ideas may not be credited.
  • We wonder why the Trudeau government has taken this step.  Is the government going to ask the Supreme Court for an extension on the February 6, 2016 deadline for coming up with legislation?  If so, how will the government transform the observations of the federal panel into legislation?
  • These are questions each person who is concerned about assisted suicide and euthanasia should be asking their member of parliament.  To contact your member, go to parl.gc.ca, choose your language, and select the “senators and members” tab to find out how to contact your MP.


  • Health Minister Gaetan Barrette called Québec’s palliative care system “dysfunctional” when he unveiled a five year plan to improve palliative and “end-of-life” care.
  • Though Minister Barrette said that the quality of the service was not at issue, there needed to be standardization in how the service was offered.
  • Many observers felt this was a veiled attack on hospice directors who refused to administer euthanasia, despite a provision in the law which allows hospices to choose whether or not to participate.
  • The five year plan would extend “end-of-life care” (euthanasia) to children and adolescents.  It also proposes to offer equitable, though not universal access to palliative care, and to provide those services in the home as often as possible.
  • The seven priorities are:
    • Ensure the implementation of Québec’s euthanasia law within the time allowed.
    • Ensure equitable access to palliative care and euthanasia services
    • Ensure the continuity and fluidity of services offered by different providers and partners associated with palliative care and euthanasia.
    • Provide services in the home to people receiving palliative care or euthanasia.
    • Ensure that children and adolescents have access to palliative care and euthanasia.
    • Recognize and support family caregivers.
    • Ensure the quality of services offered to individuals and their families.


  • Last week, the Economist magazine posted a 20-minute video documentary on its website about euthanasia for non-medical causes.  The video focused on Emily, a 24-year-old Belgian woman who was given permission for euthanasia despite having no terminal illness, and no physical pain.
  • The video followed her through the final weeks of preparation for the procedure, interviewing a therapist, her mother, and her friends.
  • Emily stated that she had found no relief from depression and a sense of meaninglessness she’d felt since she was 12 years old, despite medications and therapy.
  • Her therapist agreed with Emily that she had a right to euthanasia.  The documentary showed her talking with her mother, and her two closest friends, all of whom hoped she would change her mind.
  • In the end, Emily did not go through with the euthanasia.  She said if euthanasia had not been available, she would have killed herself.  The filmmaker echoed statements from pro-euthanasia advocates who believe that when people have the choice to die, they have more control, and are therefore free to enjoy their lives.
  • There was only one short interview with an opponent of euthanasia, and some of the arguments against the practice were presented in order to be contradicted by interview subjects in the film.
  • This film did a great disservice by failing to examine requests for euthanasia as suicidal behaviour.  It failed to hold the therapist to account for “giving up” on a client whose symptoms seemed intractable.  And it applied faulty reasoning to draw conclusions about why Emily asked for euthanasia, and then rescinded her request.