The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

End of life: Chairs are seated, let’s get to work

June 22 2017 22 June 2017


In April, the Council of Canadian Academies announced the appointment of its Expert Panel on Medical Assistance in Dying, to be chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps.

It also announced the chairs of the working groups tasked with studying the three areas that the federal government marked out for further study when it passed the medical assistance in dying law: mature minors, advance requests and mental illness.

The Canadian Bar Association’s End-of-Life working group wrote in May to each of the working groups to offer the Association’s help wherever it might be needed.

The chairs are:

Dr. Dawn Davies, an associate professor in pediatrics at the University of Alberta, will chair the mature minors working group.

Dr. Kwame McKenzie, a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto and Director of Health Equity at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, will chair the Working Group on requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition.

Justice Deschamps is the interim chair of the working group on advance requests until a new chair can be named. The original chair, Dr. Harvey Shipper stepped down in May when his nomination to the post caused an uproar due to his previous comments on medical assistance in dying.

The Expert Panel held its first meeting in May. The working groups will examine the evidence and seek public input before presenting their reports, expected late in 2018.

The CBA policy on medical assistance in dying is found in several resolutions passed since 2015: Clarifying Law about End-of-Life Decision-Making, Physician-Assisted Dying, Advance Requests for Medical Assistance in Dying, Medical Assistance in Dying and Psychiatric Conditions and Medical Assistance in Dying for Competent Minors. The CBA’s End-of-Life working group is drawn from diverse areas of expertise, including criminal justice, constitutional and human rights law, health law, wills, estates and trusts law, elder law, children’s law, corporate counsel, privacy law, dispute resolution and equality issues. The members include lawyers in private practice, the public sector and in-house counsel.

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