In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, in its decision in the Carter case, that there should be limited exemptions to Canada’s laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide. The court said that patients in specific circumstances, with a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring suffering, should be able to ask a physician to help them end their life, without penalty. (See the EFC’s summary and commentary on the decision at theEFC.ca/carter.)
The court has suspended its declaration until June 6 in order to give Parliament time to put in place regulations and safeguards on physician-assisted death.
A special joint parliamentary committee made recommendations to Parliament Feb. 25 to provide far more expansive access to assisted death than the Supreme Court provided in the Carter decision. Several committee members wrote a dissenting opinion, pointing out the committee report “falls far short of what is necessary to protect vulnerable Canadians and the Charter protected conscience rights of health professionals.” See a two-page summary of the EFC’s submission to the committee or the full submission, and the EFC's analysis (PDF, 4MB) of some of the committee’s deeply troubling recommendations.
The federal government introduced Bill C-14 on April 14. The legislation aimed to create a Criminal Code exemption to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide for persons who are 18 years or older, with a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability, in an advanced state of irreversible decline and for whom death is reasonably foreseeable. Read the government’s summary of the legislation here. The government intended to have the legislation in place very quickly, by June 2016, and succeeded.
The EFC is completely opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide. As the federal government got ready to allow the practices, we urged the government to put in place very strict limits and safeguards to protect conscience rights and the lives of vulnerable Canadians. In its news release on Bill C-14, the EFC urged Parliamentarians to examine the risks inherent in the practices, and called for strong conscience protection for medical practitioners and institutions to be provided in the legislation.
The EFC continues to produce and provide various resources on these issues.