Below is a portion of the article that originally appeared in the Ottawa Citizen. The article can be found in it's entirety here.
Provinces that refuse to offer right-to-die medical services should have federal health care subsidies slashed to discourage a repeat of the jurisdictional patchwork that limits legal access to abortion in parts of the country, parliamentarians heard Monday.
NDP MP and health critic Murray Rankin, at a hearing of the special joint House-Senate committee on assisted dying, pressed witnesses Abby Hoffman, assistant deputy minister at Health Canada, on whether the government would withhold heath-care transfer payments from provinces and territories that chose not to make physician-assisted death services available.
“The last line of defence is withholding funding,” responded Hoffman. But, “there would be a lot of conversation with that jurisdiction long before the point of withholding funds. It is a very long process to turn an alleged violation of a principle into a situation where there are financial penalties.”
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last year that Canadians have a constitutional right to physician-assisted death under the Charter’s Section 7 guarantees to the right to life, liberty and security of the person.
As well, two core principles of the Canada Health Care Act are comprehensiveness — that medically necessary hospital and doctor services are covered by public health care insurance — and accessibility.
But committee member Rankin said there are concerns the right-to-die could be treated like access to abortion, which the Supreme Court in 1988 ruled to be a constitutional Section 7 right, too. Yet surgical abortions are still not available in Prince Edward Island and only recently became more easily available in New Brunswick.
“We can’t let the Canada Health Care Act atrophy. It’s the signature piece of our federation,” Rankin said in an interview. “The act has not been enforced to the extent that it should. I don’t want a patchwork across the country. It’s a constitutional right. These are things that I want our government to really grapple with.”