Law Commission of Ontario Publishes Discussion Paper for their “Improving the Last Stages of Life” Project

8 June 2017

By Allison Curley

Earlier this week, the Law Commission of Ontario (“LCO”) released a discussion paper (PDF) for their “Improving the Last Stages of Life” Project. This Project focusses on the experiences of those who are involved in the dying process, and contemplates how law impacts the rights, choices, and quality of life for people who are dying.

The Project seeks the input of individuals, caregivers, family and friends, health care institutions and providers, governments, community organizations, and other professionals to better understand how people are experiencing the dying process. The purpose of this discussion paper is to further encourage public engagement and participation in the Project. The LCO has been and will be organizing consultation meetings, forums, focus groups, and individual interviews throughout Ontario this spring and into the summer.

The LCO notes that the issues related to last stages of life are significant. A growing number of people in Ontario will be entering their last stages of life as the baby-boomers continue to age. Further, as medical technologies and innovations continue to develop, people are expected to live longer. The LCO points out that everyone has an interest in the dying process, no matter your stage in life.

The discussion paper synthesizes information that has been gathered on the Project to date, and additionally asks specific and general questions about key issues pertaining to the last stages of life.  The paper outlines the Project’s scope and methodology, identifies the key issues, and provides the public with information for participation. Written submissions will be accepted until September 29, 2017.

Of note is the LCO’s assurance that they will not duplicate the work being done by either the Government of Ontario or the Federal Government. Research is currently being conducted on both palliative care and medical assistance in dying (“MAiD”) by government entities, and is thus excluded from the scope of this Project.

The discussion paper has a chapter dedicated to access to justice for communities with unmet needs, and another chapter is on assistance with the law with respect to navigation, dispute resolution, and public legal education.

The Project’s formal consultation period will run from May – September 2017. The LCO is expected to produce a report on interim findings and preliminary recommendations in early 2018. The discussion paper provides information on how the public may become involved and/or submit their comments.

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