For Immediate Release
VANCOUVER, B.C. – Today, the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) reacts to the legislation the federal government tabled to amend Canada’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) law, Bill C-7, calling it an overall improvement on the current law – but with some major flaws that the government must address. The BCCLA litigated Carter v. Attorney General of Canada, the case that led the Supreme Court of Canada to unanimously decriminalize assisted dying for seriously and incurably ill Canadians.
Grace Pastine, Litigation Director for the BCCLA stated: “The short story is that the new MAID law is a mixed bag for civil liberties and patients’ rights. The good news is that patients with chronic, degenerative diseases, like MS or locked-in syndrome, are not flatly barred from choosing MAID. That change is long overdue and comes as no surprise, given that a Quebec court declared that part of the law unconstitutional last year. Patients with chronic, degenerative conditions who may face years of agony will know that MAID is option if their suffering becomes intolerable. We’re also pleased that the government accepted Audrey’s Amendment for some patients – which will waive the requirement for final consent for those patients who are eligible and approved for MAID but who lose capacity before the procedure is provided. This means that eligible patients will not need to make the cruel choice between spending a few more days or weeks with their loved ones or ending their lives before they’re truly ready out of fear they will lose capacity before MAID can be provided. It will also mean that people will not need to refuse pain medication in order to retain capacity or lose access to MAID simply because they unexpectedly lost capacity while waiting for their provider.”
“The bad news is that the new law is overly complex and adds additional, confusing hurdles for some patients, and flatly bars other patients – in particular, those deemed to have mental illness as their sole medical condition – from eligibility. Patients whose natural deaths are not “reasonably foreseeable” must endure a 90-day waiting period – while the previously required 10-day waiting period has been removed for patients whose natural deaths are “reasonably foreseeable.” The patient must be suffering unbearably when the waiting period begins, which means that some patients will now be subjected to 90 days of intolerable suffering before they can have the option of an assisted death. This is cruel and unnecessary and raises serious constitutional concerns.”
The BCCLA urges the government to urgently address these flaws in the legislation and make amendments before the bill becomes law. Bill C-7 places many needless and confusing hurdles in front of eligible, profoundly anguished patients. The Association will resist these attempts by opponents of assistance in dying to undermine patients’ legal rights. It is clear that medical and nurse practitioners are safely and responsibly carrying out MAID – there is absolutely no need to make it more difficult for some patients to have a compassionate dying process. The law provides layers of safeguards. It requires a person to have a serious and incurable illness, to be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability, and to be experiencing enduring, intolerable and irremediable suffering. Additionally, two practitioners must ensure the strict eligibility criteria are met. The law only applies to competent, consenting adults who make a voluntary, informed decision.
Pastine added: “Canada’s experience reflects the growing international consensus that assisted dying is about the twin goals of empowerment and ending suffering; it is one of many compassionate health care options that should be available for seriously and incurably ill patients who are experiencing intolerable and irremediable suffering.”
Grace Pastine, BCCLA Litigation Director: [email protected] or 778-241-7183
Jessica Magonet, BCCLA Staff Lawyer: [email protected] or 604‐359‐2415