On April 14, 2016, the government introduced Bill C-14 that would legalize medical
assistance in dying if it comes into force.
To understand the implications of the language in Bill C-14, a
bit of history is in order. In February 2015, the Supreme Court of
Canada held that a blanket ban on assisted death was
unconstitutional, and ordered Parliament to draft right-to-die
legislation that respects the Charter. The Supreme Court of Canada
in Carter v. Canada (Attorney
General) specifically held that the test for
qualifying for medically assisted death in Canada should be:
competent adult persons that (1) clearly consent to the termination
of life, and (2) have a grievous and irremediable medical condition
that causes enduring and intolerable suffering to the individual in
the circumstances of his or her condition.
Bill C-14 does not go that far. The key is found in the proposed
s. 241.2(2)(d), where the eligibility criterion of having a
"grievous and irremediable medical condition" is
Grievous and irremediable
(2) A person has a
grievous and irremediable medical condition if
(a) they have a serious
and incurable illness, disease or disability;
(b) they are in an
advanced state of irreversible decline in capability;
(c) that illness, disease
or disability or that state of decline causes them enduring
physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and
that cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider
(d) their natural
death has become reasonably foreseeable, taking into
account all of their medical circumstances, without a prognosis
necessarily having been made as to the specific length of time that
they have remaining.
The condition that the person's natural death be reasonably
foreseeable can be interpreted to mean that a person wishing to
qualify for medical assistance in dying must be in the terminal
stages of illness. This requires more than the Supreme
Court of Canada's ruling that the test for qualifying should
simply be those who have a grievous and irremediable medical
condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering to the
individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.
While controversy stirs from all sides as the new Bill C-14 is
hotly debated in the press, the government now has about five weeks
to debate, study and pass the bill before the Supreme Court's
June 6 deadline. The justice committee will likely have time to
study and propose amendments before the deadline. It remains to be
seen, however, whether any amendments will be proposed, or whether
Bill C-14 will even be passed. Updates on this matter will
Thank you to Kevin Tjia for assisting with this blog post.
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