Since June 2016 Canadian law has allowed for eligible Canadians to request medical assistance in dying (commonly know as MAID). In September 2019 the Superior Court of Quebec declared certain eligibility requirements for MAID to be unconstitutional. As a result, the government of Canada introduced Bill C-7 which proposes certain amendments to MAID designed to bring the law into compliance with the court ruling.
On Wednesday February 10, 2021 the Senate approved certain amendments that would expand eligibility for MAID. The House of Commons must now decide whether any of the proposed amendments in Bill C-7 will become law.
Currently, a person seeking MAID must meet the following criteria:
- Be eligible for health services funded by the federal or provincial government;
- Be at least 18 years old;
- Have a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” which means:
- the condition is a serious illness, disease or disability;
- the condition is in advanced state of decline that cannot be revered;
- one experiences unbearable physical or mental suffering from the condition or are in a state of decline that cannot be relieved under conditions they consider acceptable; and
- natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.
- Be capable of making health care decisions for themselves; and
- Make a voluntary request for MAID that is not the result of outside pressure or influence.
One of the most significant proposed changes in Bill C-7 is the removal of the requirement that the individual be near the end of their natural life in order to access MAID (i.e. “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable” at the time the request is made).
Another major proposed change is the removal of the requirement that the individual be capable of making health care decisions for themselves at the time that they request MAID (i.e. the individual must be capable of making health care decisions for themself at the time the request is made).
It would appear that the goal of these proposed changes to the law are designed to allow adults who fear losing capacity, due to Alzheimer’s, dementia or other cognitive-impairing condition, to make an advance request for MAID. Specifically, these changes would allow individuals the opportunity to make written requests, while still mentally capable, for access to MAID at some point in the future when they anticipate that they would no longer have an acceptable quality of life.
The federal Government is facing the court-imposed deadline of February 26th to finalize the changes. However, the House of Commons is expected to begin debating the amendments this week, and, as a result, the government has requested that the court extend the deadline leaving many anxious Canadians on both sides of the debate to wait and see.
*Update: The Court provided the Government with a fourth extension until Friday March 26, 2021 to bring the law into compliance with the 2019 ruling.