In point form, Sean Fine clarifies the key questions about the Liberal Government’s assisted-dying bill. Having now cleared first reading in the House of Commons, the bill will go to committee for further study.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, history, health

Key Question to Explore:

  • What are the limits and conditions of the new assisted-dying bill before the House of Commons?

New Terminology:

Irremediable, assisted-dying, precludes, faith-based institutions

Materials Needed:

Globe article

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that a longstanding ban on assisted death is unconstitutional. It gave the former Conservative Government 12 months to craft a law that accommodates its ruling. When the Liberals were elected, they asked for and received a six-month extension and they have come forward with a bill on assisted-dying which would need to be passed within a few weeks. The bill was passed on first reading by a massive majority of MPs representing all federal parties.

Under this bill, for the first time in Canadian history, medical doctors will be tasked with assisting people to die. At issue are the conditions that are being spelled out in detail under the bill, which will be now studied in committee and returned to the House of Commons with revisions for further debate before a final vote is taken. In the meantime, it is important to know the status of the bill as it stands, in part so students can assess the kinds of changes, if any are forthcoming, that are made to the bill between now and then.

Students will complete a simple worksheet using the Globe article as their primary resource.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Ask students if they are aware of the assisted-dying bill that has cleared first reading in the House of Commons. Explain that it requires three readings plus approval by the Senate before it becomes law. Discuss this as necessary to ensure they have the basic information before giving giving them the following assignment, which they can complete on their own in class or for homework, as you choose. Their work can be checked by other students or by you, as you choose and you may choose to discuss the results later in this class period or in a subsequent session.

Work Sheet for students

Read the article supplied by your teacher and answer the following questions about it. Provide direct quotes from the article to support your answers.

  • Will the bill allow a 12-year old person who has an illness that cannot be cured and that causes extreme pain which cannot be alleviated to receive an assisted death?
  • Will the bill allow a person an assisted death if they have given directions in advance, for example, to die if they have advanced Alzheimer’s disease?
  • What fundamental right does the Supreme Court say is included in having the “sanctity of life” respected?
  • Once the federal bill passes third reading, it will become the law. Will provinces be able to change this law in any way, so that it is applied differently in their jurisdictions?
  • Which aspects of this bill have people representing faith-based institutions criticized especially?
  • If a person were suddenly struck down with an illness causing severe pain and if that pain could not be alleviated and if the condition would result in certain death in the foreseeable future, what is the minimum time that person would have to wait, after requesting an assisted death, to have that request granted?
  • The law is set to take effect in June of this year. Until then, what option exists for a person to request an assisted death? Have any such requests been granted to date?
  • What percentage of doctors have said they would not participate in providing an assisted death?
  • Finally, what do you think about the assisted-dying bill? Are you in favour of it or not? Why or why not?

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students discuss their work in class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students are able to describe key aspects of the new assisted-dying bill.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students report on any changes to the bill before it is passed and on its passing.