About the Proposed Legislation
Bill C-14, legislation on medical assistance in dying, received royal assent on June 17, 2016. For more information, visit canada.ca/health
Proposed legislation has been introduced that would give dying patients, who are suffering intolerably from a serious medical condition, the choice of a medically-assisted death.
The proposed legislation and safeguards were carefully designed to:
- recognize individual choice of medically assisted death for adults who are suffering intolerably and for whom death is reasonably foreseeable;
- affirm the inherent and equal value of every person's life;
- avoid encouraging negative perceptions of the quality of life of persons who are elderly, ill or disabled;
- protect vulnerable people from being encouraged to die in moments of weakness;
- re-affirm society's goals with regard to preventing suicide;
- encourage a consistent approach to medical assistance in dying across Canada.
Changes to the Criminal Code
To enable access to medical assistance in dying in Canada, the Criminal Code would be changed so that:
- Physicians, nurse practitioners—and those who help them—can provide assistance to die to eligible patients without the risk of being charged with assisted suicide or homicide.
- There will be safeguards to make sure those who ask for medical assistance in dying are eligible, can give informed consent, and voluntarily request it.
- The foundation is laid for the Minister of Health to make regulations to establish a process for monitoring and reporting on the use of medical assistance in dying.
Under the proposed legislation, medical assistance in dying would be available to a person who meets all of the following criteria:
- being an adult (at least 18 years old) who is mentally competent or capable to make health care decisions for themselves;
- having a grievous and irremediable medical condition;
- making a voluntary request for medical assistance in dying which does not result from external pressure;
- giving informed consent to receive medical assistance in dying; and
- being eligible for health services funded by a government in Canada;
Safeguards proposed in the Bill include all of the following:
- A request for medical assistance in dying would need to be in writing by the patient or another adult on the patient's behalf, if the patient cannot write, and witnessed by two independent witnesses;
- A physician or nurse practitioner would need to be of the opinion that the patient is eligible to receive medical assistance in dying;
- A second physician or nurse practitioner would need to provide a written opinion confirming the patient is eligible to receive medical assistance in dying;
- The physician or nurse practitioner providing medical assistance in dying and the physician or nurse practitioner giving the second opinion would need to be independent of each other and of the patient;
- Following the request for medical assistance in dying, a mandatory reflection period of at least 10 days would need to occur between the day the written request was signed and the day medical assistance in dying was provided, unless death or the patient's loss of capacity were imminent;
- A patient requesting medical assistance in dying could rescind their request at any time; and
- Immediately before providing medical assistance in dying, the physician or nurse practitioner would need to give the patient the opportunity to withdraw their request and ensure that the patient gives express consent to receive medical assistance in dying.
The government would be required to initiate one or more independent reviews to study the issues surrounding mature minors, people who suffer only from mental illness, and advance requests in the context of medical assistance in dying, within 180 days of the legislation receiving Royal Assent.
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