Canadian Jewish News: Concerns raised about physician-assisted death

This article was written by Paul Jungen and published in the The Canadian Jewish News on March 10, 2016.

By Paul Jungen

The Supreme Court has spoken, the legislative wing is deliberating, but some in the Jewish community are uncomfortable with the direction the country is going in adopting a policy on physician-assisted suicide.

Discussion on the topic is now so normalized that an acronym has arisen, PAD, referring to it as physician-assisted dying.

As is the case throughout Canada, the Jewish community is not of one mind when it comes to public policy regarding the issue. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) canvassed a broad spectrum of opinion in the Jewish community and presented a series of suggestions to the minister of justice that would regulate how the policy is implemented.

CIJA found support for the initiative on compassionate grounds, along with concerns that safeguards are needed to avoid the proverbial slippery slope that could lead to assisted deaths beyond the narrow bounds contemplated by its advocates.

READ: ORTHODOX DOCTORS WRESTLE WITH ETHICS OF ‘ASSISTED SUICIDE’

But there are voices in the community who are deeply troubled with the idea that physicians – whose mandate is to preserve life and heal the sick – would participate in ending lives. Others worry that once implemented, a policy of assisted dying in a narrow band of circumstances will gradually broaden to include situations not originally contemplated by proponents of the policy, including “informed minors.”

The current situation grew out of a Supreme Court ruling one year ago that struck down, on constitutional grounds, sections of the Criminal Code that made it illegal to help someone commit suicide. The court stated the law would remain in effect for one year before it lapsed. It later extended the deadline to June 2016.

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