New medical assistance in dying legislation becomes law
March 17, 2021
Ottawa - Department of Justice Canada
Medical assistance in dying (MAID) is a complex and deeply personal issue. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring our laws reflect Canadians’ evolving needs, support their autonomy and freedom of choice, and protect those who are vulnerable.
Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced that changes to Canada’s Criminal Code provisions on MAID have received Royal Assent and immediately came into force.
The new MAID law marks a significant milestone. The changes are the result of over five years of experience with MAID in Canada. The new law responds to feedback from over 300,000 Canadians, experts, practitioners, stakeholders, provinces and territories, provided during the January and February 2020 consultations. It is also informed by the testimony of over 120 expert witnesses heard throughout Bill C-7’s study by the House of Commons and the Senate.
Specifically, the new law:
- removes the requirement for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable in order to be eligible for MAID, in response to the 2019 Superior Court of Québec’s Truchon ruling
- introduces a two-track approach to procedural safeguards based on whether or not a person’s natural death is reasonably foreseeable
- existing safeguards are maintained and, in some cases, eased for eligible persons whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable
- new and strengthened safeguards are introduced for eligible persons whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable
- temporarily excludes eligibility for individuals suffering solely from mental illness for 24 months, and requires the Ministers of Justice and Health to initiate an expert review tasked with making recommendations within the next year on protocols, guidance and safeguards for MAID for persons suffering from mental illness
- allows eligible persons whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable, and who have a set date to receive MAID, to waive final consent if they are at risk of losing capacity in the interim
- allows for expanded data collection and analysis through the federal monitoring regime to provide a more complete and inclusive picture of MAID in Canada
The Government of Canada recognizes that other important outstanding issues related to MAID must still be explored. Areas such as the eligibility of mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, palliative care and the protection of Canadians living with disabilities will be considered during a parliamentary review of the MAID legislation that would begin within the next 30 days. The committee responsible for the parliamentary review process will be required to submit its report to Parliament no later than one year after the start of the review.
“Important changes to Canada’s medical assistance in dying law are officially in force. Many Canadians, particularly those who are suffering intolerably, were anxious to see these changes become reality. It has been a long process, and I am glad that the wait is over. The revised law respects the autonomy and freedom of choice of all Canadians to decide for themselves when their suffering has become intolerable, while protecting the vulnerable.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“As the Minister of Health, the health and wellbeing of Canadians is my primary concern. The new law is the product of a comprehensive effort informed by thoughtful contributions from many sources including health care providers, academics, and the public. It is a significant, but measured step to addressing access to MAID in Canada. I believe this new law offers an approach to medical assistance in dying that will best serve the interests of all Canadians.”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Health
MAID became legal in Canada in June 2016. The federal legislation sets out eligibility criteria for those who wish to apply for MAID, as well as the safeguards physicians and nurse practitioners must follow.
On July 24, 2020, Health Canada released the First Annual Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada (2019) which is the first report using data collected under the Regulations for the Monitoring of Medical Assistance in Dying.
- Since June 2016, there have been more than 13,000 reported medically assisted deaths in Canada. This figure is based on voluntarily reported data from the provinces and territories prior to November 1, 2018, and data collected under the new monitoring regime after that date.
- MAID deaths as a percentage of all deaths in Canada remains consistent with other international assisted-dying regimes.
- Cancer is the most frequently cited underlying medical condition, followed by respiratory, neurological and cardiovascular conditions.
- The majority of individuals receiving MAID (82.1%) were reported to have received palliative care services.
The Council of Canadian Academies completed reviews in three areas where MAID was not allowed under the 2016 legislation: requests by mature minors, advance requests, and requests where a mental disorder is the sole underlying medical condition.
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Department of Justice Canada
Office of the Minister of Health
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