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Vulnerable Persons Standard

About the Vulnerable Persons Standard

What is Vulnerability and Why Does it Matter?

Five Key Safeguards

  1. Equal Protection for Vulnerable Persons

    The practice of physician-assisted death in Canada must be carefully regulated and monitored. This will require priority attention to meeting the palliative care and home support needs of all Canadians who suffer. It will also require a commitment to funding and public reporting of independent research to identify any direct or indirect impact on vulnerable persons.

  2. End-of-Life Condition

    Physician-assisted death should only be available to adults who are at the end of life and who have “advanced weakening capacities with no chance of improvement”. This requirement is entirely consistent with the Supreme Court decision in Carter. It is also, notably, the requirement implemented in Québec law after several years of extensive public consultation.

  3. Voluntary and Capable Consent
    Adults who request a physician-assisted death must have the capacity to make such a decision, must be fully informed and be acting completely voluntarily. Physicians must ensure that patients are supported to access any alternate supports or treatments that might ease their suffering and that they receive whatever interpretation and communication support they require to participate in these profoundly important conversations. Adults with conditions like dementia that impair mental capacity cannot receive physician-assisted death on the basis of an advanced directive.

  4. Assessment of Suffering and Vulnerability
    It is critical to understand the nature of a person’s suffering in order to support their consideration of a physician-assisted death. When a person is motivated by factors such as grief, loneliness, shame or a lack of needed supports, safeguards must ensure that healthcare providers attempt to ease such suffering by means other than physician-assisted death.

  5. Arms-Length Authorization
    Permitting any physician to perform an assisted death requires a legal decision, one that takes into account relevant medical evaluations and ensures that all safeguards have been respected. Recent experience at the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench confirms that these decisions can be made very quickly and in a way that respects a person’s dignity and privacy. When decisions are made with this kind of formality and independence, Canada’s system for physician-assisted death will serve as a model for transparency, consistency and equity.

Core Messages

Additional Messages

Click here for more information and frequently asked questions about the Vulnerable Persons Standard.