The right to die
By Joe Ayres, Social Media coordinator
On October 5 the federal government is reintroducing a bill to amend Canada’s law on medically assisted dying and must pass it by December 18.
The federal government is amending the law to comply with a Quebec court ruling from last fall. This court ruling determined that it was unconstitutional to only allow people who could die of natural causes within a reasonable time frame to choose medically assisted death.
There was an attempt by Justice Minister David Lametti to introduce an amendment after the ruling came out in February. However, the amendment didn’t get far as the House of Commons adjourned half-way through March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The amendment officially died when Prime Minister Trudeau prorogued parliament in September.
The new bill that has been introduced is identical to the one introduced in February, the main difference being that parliament only has two months to pass it this time.
The main difference made by this new amendment is that it removes the need for reasonably foreseeable death as a requirement for medically assisted death. As it stands right, a person must wait ten days after requesting medically assisted death for the procedure to be done. Additionally, the requirement for witnesses is being halved from two to one. Finally, the person requesting the procedure must consent twice, once when requesting the procedure and once immediately before the procedure.
Those who want the procedure but are not near death must go through a significantly more challenging process. A minimum 90-day period for the request to be assessed is in place. Out of the two medical practitioners assessing the request, one must have expertise in the person requesting specific illness. Additionally, like those who may die within a reasonable time frame, the person must be capable of giving final consent before the procedure is done.
This bill also bans medically assisted dying to those where mental illness is the only underlying issue.
The Liberal government will need support from at least one of the opposition parties to pass the amendment to the bill because they are a minority government. It is likely the NDP will support the Liberals in this bid as recently the NDP helped prevent a federal election from being called and because they largely support this bill.
There is speculation that the Conservative Party will block the bill. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole promised to protect conscience rights of medical professionals, meaning that doctors who are opposed to medically assisted dying should not be required to carry out the procedure.