02/12/2015 02:05 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT

Stephen McNeil: It's Time For A Mature Conversation On Doctor Assisted Death

HALIFAX - Canadians need to have a mature conversation about assisted dying following last week's decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Thursday.

McNeil said it's time to reach out to the public and the medical community to find out if there is a way to allow people to end their lives when faced with a terminal illness.

"I'm not sure we as the state or individuals should be making that determinant for them when they know there is no other outcome but passing away," said McNeil.

"It's my hope the Supreme Court's decision will engage Canadians in how we do that."

The high court ruling struck down the ban on doctor-assisted death. It also gives Parliament a year to draft legislation that recognizes the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to seek medical help in ending their lives.

It does not limit doctor-assisted death to those suffering a terminal illness.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Wednesday the federal government would be taking the time it needs to respond to the issue.

McNeil said the provincial government won't play any role as Ottawa considers its next step.

"The federal government will determine whether or not there are changes to the Criminal Code," he said.

Quebec became the first province to adopt its own right-to-die legislation last summer. That bill sets out strict conditions under which doctors would administer "continuous palliative sedation" until death.

The Quebec law is expected to take effect by December at the latest.

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