Federal government considering expansion to Right to Death laws

Medical Assistance in Dying became legal in Canada in 2016 but the federal government is now looking at whether the eligibility should be expanded after the Superior Court of Quebec found it unconstitutional to limit access only to people nearing the end of life.

Saskatchewan’s medical advisor for the MAID program, Dr. Rob Weiler, explains that the government is considering whether the clause “reasonable foresee-ability of natural death” should be taken out. It would mean those with a chronic physical or mental condition or disability that is grievous and would never get better, including a condition like dementia, could get consent in advance for assisted dying.

Weiler personally believes the existing legislation is pretty good, giving balance between personal autonomy and choice and making sure society is reassured that MAID wouldn’t be overly promoted as an option. Others are concerned the current legislation excludes those who don’t have a ‘foreseeable death’, but Weiler says there is no time limit for death in the original legislation.

Health care providers don’t have to be involved if they disagree with medical assistance in dying. Weiler explains that you can’t force someone into being a provider of the service, just as you can’t force someone to choose the option.
The only thing a health care provider has to do is make sure the patient isn’t abandoned. They would need to make a referral.

The federal Justice Department says nearly 300-thousand Canadians participated in a survey on this topic, which to date is the largest number of responses it has received during a public consultation. The results aren’t available yet. A separate Ipsos survey commissioned by Dying with Dignity Canada found that over 80 per cent of Canadians believe people diagnosed with a grievous condition that will not improve should be allowed to make advance requests for MAID.


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