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Canada's top politicos come to Concordia

From May 2 to June 17, join 25 experts — including lawyer and author Maureen McTeer — for the Workshops on Social Science Research
April 26, 2016
By J. Latimer

If you think assisted dying sounds like a timely topic for the Workshops on Social Science Research (WSSR) at Concordia, you’re right.

The Canadian Liberal government introduced a bill on Thursday, April 14, that would legalize medical assistance in dying.

Next, the assisted-dying bill has to be debated and passed through the House of Commons and Senate before the Supreme Court’s June 6 deadline — in other words, democracy in action.

Canadian lawyer and author Maureen McTeer will address the controversial subject in her all-day workshop on May 17, Living and Dying in the 21st Century: The Canadian Approach.

McTeer is one of 25 speakers participating in the spring 2016 edition of the WSSR.

From May 2 to June 17, the WSSR will feature 24 one- to four-day learning opportunities on diverse topics within the themes of public policy making, pundits and the media, the democratic process, political philosophy and both qualitative and quantitative research methods and methodologies.

McTeer and the assisted-dying bill

McTeer’s topic falls under the category of public policy making. Her workshop grew out of her years as a health-care and women’s rights advocate. For three decades, McTeer has been at the forefront of the public movement to involve Canadians in the discussion and decision making around societal issues where law, science and public policy intersect.

“My purpose of speaking out has always been to make sure that the public really is an integral part of both setting the agenda and then determining the options for public policy and then of course, for law,” says McTeeran original member of Canada’s Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies and the author of the book Tough Choices: Living and Dying in the 21st Century.

How, she asks, do we help those who are suffering intolerable and irremediable pain — those who have full capacity and are asking for assistance in dying?

“You'd think we're advanced, educated and sophisticated enough as a society that we would have the ability to do just that,” says McTeer.

“The Supreme Court has, in the 2015 Carter v Canada case, made it clear that patient autonomy is the main priority to be protected, and their analysis of existing jurisdictions that have assistance in dying have been able to protect the various other interests,” she adds.

“Those include the interests of those who are mentally and physically vulnerable, neonates who are catastrophically affected … and those who are fatally ill, in terrible pain.”

McTeer’s workshop will look at decision-making at the end of life in the health-care context, but through a legal lens. 

Participants will discuss all aspects, including patients’ rights, the judicial perspective, constitutional division of powers in Canada, the bill before parliament and Quebec’s approach to tackling the issue, which she holds up as an example.

“Quebec went around the province, it listened to people and gathered information. Some was personal opinion, but some was from groups that had taken the time to think about these questions, and that added an informed point of view. It was a process which worked well.”

She says, going forward, Canada’s two levels of government — federal and provincial — are going to have to work together on the issue, even though the federal government has the responsibility to establish the legal framework.

“The provinces have the constitutional responsibility to license doctors, nurses, any of those professional groups that will be involved in the actual delivery of this assistance in dying.”

Register for Living and Dying in the 21st Century: The Canadian Approach, which takes place on May 17, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Henry F. Hall Building (1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.), Sir George Williams Campus.

The Workshops on Social Science Research (WSSR) are open to everyone either for credit or non-credit. Find out more aboutregistration.


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