Parliament will consider whether to extend MAID to those who are not terminally-ill and for those who will lack capacity by the time they receive an assisted death
The Canadian Federal Government has released a briefing on its plans to amend the criteria for MAID.
The Federal Government’s proposals follow a court ruling in Quebec last year, which concluded that limiting MAID to the terminally-ill only, was unconstitutional.
The attached PDF summarises all the amendments which the Government is now considering and the most significant amendment is the removal of the criterion that death needs to be reasonably foreseeable.
Should the proposed amendments be ratified by the Canadian Parliament, the eligibility criteria for MAID would be as follows:
i) 18+ years of age, has decision-making capacity and eligible for publicly funded health care services
ii) Voluntary request for MAID
iii) Informed consent to receive MAID given after patient informed of means available to relieve suffering
iv) Person has “grievous and irremediable medical condition”, meaning all of the following criteria:
• serious and incurable illness, disease or disability;
• in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and
• has enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and that cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable.
By removing the criterion that “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable” the number of those people who would potentially qualify for MAID is disturbing.
In practice, the severely disabled and chronically ill would also be eligible for assisted death in Canada, bringing Canada in line with highly controversial jurisdictions which have legalised assisted death, such as Belgium.
Among the planned amendments, other important safeguards have been weakened.
If the patients is terminally-ill, applications for MAID no longer have to be approved by two independent witnesses and the mandatory ten-day reflection period before an applicant receives MAID has been scrapped. Given the range of emotions which a terminally-ill or seriously sick person might experience, it is concerning that this important safeguard to protect the patient from hasty or desperate decision making, has been abolished.
In circumstances where natural death is not imminent the Government has proposed tighter safeguards. The new law would require a minimum period of 90 days for assessment of the request and state that one of the practitioners who approved the MAID request must be an expert in the condition which is causing the patients suffering.
Finally, the new law would allow individuals who are expected to lose capacity to make advance requests for MAID, providing the person’s death is ‘reasonably foreseeable.’ This is a highly significant amendment which would see the administration of lethal injections to patients who may have had capacity to consent to them months before, but who at the time of receiving MAID, cannot indicate if that is still their wish.
In summary, Canada’s Government is considering introducing an assisted dying regime with a phenomenal absence of safeguards, raising serious questions about public safety.maid-briefing