Review of Medical Assistance in Dying: What’s happening, part 1

06 June 2022

A special committee of MPs and Senators are reviewing Canada’s laws on euthanasia and assisted suicide, and considering whether to expand them even further.  

The special joint committee began its review of the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) law in April. It is considering whether to expand MAID even further to allow mature minors to be eligible and to allow advance requests for MAID. The committee is also looking at related issues of mental illness, the protection of Canadians with disabilities, and palliative care.  

The committee is hearing from experts and stakeholders and has received hundreds of written submissions, many from Dying with Dignity supporters. As the EFC’s brief explained, we remain firmly opposed to hastened death, but offer recommendations to minimize the harm and risk to vulnerable Canadians. In our brief, we urged the committee:  

Issues related to medical assistance in dying (MAID) directly affect the lives of many Canadians. Please take the time to consider these complex issues carefully, to hear Canadians’ concerns and to study the evidence. Don’t rush to expand MAID.  

The committee must make a full report back to Parliament by October 17 and may make an interim report on mental illness by June 23, 2022.  

Canada has one of the most permissive euthanasia laws in the world. Parliament passed an initial law allowing euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2016, Bill C-14, following the Supreme Court decision in the Carter case. The EFC was an intervenor in the Carter case, arguing for the protection of life and against assisted suicide. In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that there could be exceptions to the laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide under certain conditions.  

In 2021, Bill C-7 passed, removing some of the initial safeguards from Bill C-14 and expanding who would be eligible for euthanasia or assisted suicide. The initial MAID regime was limited to Canadians whose natural death was reasonably foreseeable. Bill C-7 expanded MAID eligibility to people with disabilities or serious illness who are not near death. The bill also makes Canadians with mental illness alone eligible for MAID, in a provision that will take effect in March 2023. 

Health Canada reports that 21,589 people ended their lives via MAID in the four years since Bill C-14 was passed (2016-2020). There has been a significant increase in the number of deaths by MAID each year, with a 34% increase between 2019 to 2020, from 5,660 deaths in 2019 to 7,595 in 2020. These numbers don’t reflect the impact of the 2021 law that removed safeguards and expanded access to those who are not dying. 

When its short period of study is completed, the committee will submit its report to Parliament and make recommendations for government action. The government is not bound to follow the committee recommendations, but committee reports can influence its decisions.  

These are critical policies that will directly affect the lives of Canadians. 

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