Canada’s law, one year on
by Dr. David Amies
In June 2016, the federal government of Canada passed its medical assistance in dying (MAID) bill, thereby allowing certain persons to obtain help from their doctors to end their lives. The new law disappointed many activists because it was seen as too restrictive, but in spite of that, approximately 1,500 individuals across the country have availed themselves of its provisions, choosing to end their own lives with medical assistance because they were in intolerable suffering as a result of an illness that had no useful, acceptable or available treatment. The law does not oblige health professionals to be part of MAID if their consciences or personal ethics forbid that.
The notorious ‘reasonably foreseeable’ clause has provoked the greatest furor because it is so vague. It is not a medical term, and even lawyers are unable to define it sensibly. Is death likely within 180 days (i.e., six months) considered reasonably foreseeable? If so, how about death within 181 days, 190 days and so on?
Dying with Dignity Canada have produced a comprehensive (21 page) report about their first year of MAID. They describe the report as “a summary of the major barriers currently facing Canadians who want to exercise their right to a peaceful death.” The intelligence comes to DWD Canada “via
news reports and academic literature, the doctors on our Physicians Advisory Council, other allies and stakeholder groups, and through conversations with individuals and families who access our Personal Support Program”. The report is divided into four major content areas:
the impacts of Bill C-14’s eligibility criteria;
the practical effects of the safeguards laid out in the law;
the structural barriers facing Canadians who wish to exercise their right to MAID;
the state of the mechanisms that are in place to gather, monitor and report national MAID data.
click to download Challenges to choice bill c14 one year on in Canada July 2017
On December 13, 2016, the federal government of Canada announced that the Council of Canadian Academies would conduct a review of the working of the law, with reference to requests that are not eligible under the law. The final reports on these reviews will be tabled in Parliament and available to the public by December 2018. Click for the Government of Canada Medical assistance in dying webpage for more information.
“As medical assistance in dying was coming into existence one year ago, my husband Paul was awaiting surgery to remove the cancerous tumour in his right lung….He called the doctor and made an appointment to begin the process necessary to qualify for MAID…. Our worst nightmare had materialised….Paul felt very empowered by his decision….So, on this first anniversary of Canada’s assisted dying law, I hope that everyone will embrace Paul’s story and open their minds to all the possibilities.”