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Lametti ‘interested’ but won’t commit to changing assisted-dying law

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SHERBROOKE, Que. — Newly appointed Justice Minister David Lametti says he’s interested in hearing proposals aimed at ensuring grievously ill Canadians aren’t forced to end their lives prematurely rather than risk losing the mental capacity required to receive medical assistance to die.

Lametti, who was named to the Justice portfolio on Monday, won’t promise to change Canada’s two-and-a-half-year-old law on assisted dying.

But he’s open to hearing what Dying with Dignity Canada suggests so other Canadians won’t suffer the same fate as Audrey Parker.

Parker is the Halifax woman who last fall made a very public plea for changes to the law.

Parker had terminal breast cancer. She been assessed and approved for a medically assisted death, having given her consent and met all the other requirements spelled out in the law.

However, because the cancer had spread to her brain, she feared she could lose the ability to give her consent again immediately prior to receiving the service, as required by the law. Consequently, she ended her life, with medical help, sooner than she wanted.

Shanaaz Gokool, president of Dying with Dignity Canada, has said there are many other Canadians in the same position as Parker. Some cut out pain medication to avoid losing mental capacity; others wait too long and wind up being denied assisted death, even though they’d previously qualified.

Her organization plans to start a campaign next month, pressuring the government to amend the law so that people who’ve been approved for assisted death can sign a declaration ensuring they’ll still receive the service if they lose mental competence before it is carried out.

Gokool believes such an amendment could be done easily and quickly, before Parliament breaks in June, triggering the unofficial start of the federal election campaign.

“I’m interested,” Lametti said in a brief interview outside his first cabinet meeting, when asked about Dying with Dignity’s idea. “I’m interested in watching what happens and what is proposed but I won’t commit the government to doing anything more than that.”

Simply by not slamming the door, Lametti is taking a different stance from his predecessor at Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould. She flatly rejected Parker’s plea last fall, contending that the law as it is strikes the right balance and saying the government “is not considering changing something” in it.

Lametti’s appointment has raised hope among those who believe the law, which stipulates that a person’s natural death must be “reasonably foreseeable,” is too restrictive. The former law professor was one of just four Liberal MPs who voted against it in 2016, arguing that it could be unconstitutional.

Lametti said the law, which must be reviewed after five years, was intended to be “the beginning of a dialogue” on the issue, including between the government and the courts.

“We’re watching the court cases, we’re watching what other people say, we’re watching the impact on the ground, as I think any good government does, but in particular for this piece of legislation because that’s what we promised we would do when we passed it,” he said. “We saw it very much as a process.”

The law is currently facing two constitutional challenges, one in Quebec and the other in British Columbia, from Canadians with degenerative diseases who contend the foreseeable-death requirement unfairly excludes them.

Asked if he’d consider referring the law directly to the Supreme Court of Canada, so that sick people won’t have to spend years challenging the law in a series of courts cases and appeals, Lametti said the decision was made when the bill was introduced to not seek the top court’s advice.

“I think it’s still too early to do that,” he added. 

Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press

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Staying active during COVID

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Staying active during COVID

During this unprecedented time, exercise becomes even more important to help with anxiety and stress. Let’s use exercise and physical activity to help manage any overwhelming negative emotions. We can continue to be active, despite of the pandemic with a few easy changes in our lives. Here’s Jonah, a family nurse and health basics coach from the Red Deer Primary Care Network.

Red Deer Primary Care Network (RDPCN) is a partnership between Family Doctors and Alberta Health Services. Health professionals such as psychologists, social workers, nurses and pharmacists work in clinics alongside family doctors.

In addition, programs and groups are offered at the RDPCN central location. This improves access to care, health promotion, chronic disease management and coordination of care.  RDPCN is proud of the patient care offered, the effective programs it has designed and the work it does with partners in health care and the community.

Read more stories from the Red Deer Primary Care Network.

Inspired to be healthy

 

 

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Inspired to be healthy

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Inspired to be Healthy

I have had high blood pressure for a number of years along with fatty liver disease, a bad back, excess weight and have ankles that swell and hurt upon standing for a length of time or during travel. I had been trying to lose weight for some time through eating a bit better and some exercise when I could. However, I wasn’t as committed as I could be, and I needed a push to make progress. When I went to my doctor and discussed my health, she suggested I attend Health Basics.

I loved the program! It inspired me to take my health more seriously and showed me great results for doing that. The coaches were not judgmental at all and really made you feel good about yourself. I learned lots and have implemented lots that I learned. Over the 8-week program, I lost 4 pounds and 3.5 inches off my waist. My blood pressure has come down and stayed down. I am to the point where my medications can be lowered.

My back was sensitive and when I did too much, it would hurt which kept me from engaging in too much exercise. Now I find with increased exercise, I have strengthened my core and have very few back pains. For the longest time when I would stand for shopping or travel on a plane, my ankles and legs would swell and cause me a lot of pain for a few weeks. That is pretty well gone now, likely due to improved circulation. I do a half an hour exercise class online every day. I have started an exercise group once a week with 6 friends, so we keep each other motivated. I have shared my success story with many who also want to take Health Basics. As a result of taking this program I am all enthused and fired up for life and I really want to be healthy. It feels great!

Learn more about the Primary Care Network.

Dealing with Distress 

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july, 2020

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