About Medical Assistance in Dying

Archived information

Bill C-14, legislation on medical assistance in dying, received royal assent on June 17, 2016. For more information, visit canada.ca/health

The expression "medical assistance in dying" refers to the situation where a person seeks and obtains medical help to end their life. This can be achieved in one of two ways:

Proposed legislation

Following the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruling in Carter, the Government of Canada has introduced legislation that would make medical assistance in dying available to mentally competent adults who are experiencing enduring and intolerable suffering, and who meet the eligibility criteria set out in the proposed legislation.

This legislation was introduced on April 14, 2016 and, if passed, would come into force on Royal Assent.

Supreme Court of Canada ruling

On February 6, 2015, the SCC released its decision in Carter v. Canada. It ruled that section 14 and paragraph 241(b) of the Criminal Code are unconstitutional because they prohibit physicians from assisting in the consensual death of another person. Learn more about the SCC ruling.

External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada

After the SCC ruling the Government of Canada established the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada. The mandate of the Panel was to engage Canadians and key stakeholders on issues the federal government would need to consider in its response to the Carter ruling.

The Panel provided a final report to the Ministers of Justice and Health that outlined key findings for consideration by the Ministers.

Special Joint Parliamentary Committee

A Special Joint Parliamentary Committee, comprised of members from both Houses of Parliament, was established in January 2016 to consult with Canadians, experts and stakeholders, review the external panel's report and other relevant studies and consultations, and make recommendations on the framework of a legislative response on physician-assisted dying.

The Special Joint Committee presented its report to the House of Commons on February 25, 2016.

Medical Aid in Dying in Quebec

In the province of Quebec, An Act respecting end-of-life care, which was adopted by the National Assembly on June 5, 2014 and came into force on December 10, 2015, allows a person to request euthanasia (called "medical aid in dying") in specified circumstances, i.e., where a patient is "at the end of life", has a serious and incurable illness, is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability, and is suffering unbearably.

On January 15, 2016, when the Supreme Court of Canada granted the Government of Canada an additional four months, until June 6th, to respond to the Carter decision, it also held that in respect of specified provisions of An Act respecting end-of-life care, Quebec law applies during the four-month extension of the suspended declaration of invalidity.

More information can be found on the Quebec Provincial Web site.