Government of Canada Initiates Studies Related to Medical Assistance in Dying

News Release

Independent organization will review issues related to requests by mature minors, advance requests, and requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition

December 13, 2016 - Ottawa, ON - Health Canada

Medical assistance in dying continues to be a sensitive, complex issue and many Canadians have deeply-held views on the subject. The objective remains to strike the right balance between personal autonomy for those seeking access to medical assistance in dying and protecting the most vulnerable Canadians.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, Minister of Health Jane Philpott and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould are pleased to announce that they have engaged the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) to conduct independent reviews related to specific types of requests for medical assistance in dying. The three reviews will focus on requests by mature minors, advance requests, and requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition.

These issues were the subject of debate when Bill C-14, the Government's legislation on medical assistance in dying, was being considered by Parliament. The legislation was ground-breaking in changing Canadian criminal law to allow for safe and consistent access to medical assistance in dying for mentally competent adults who are suffering unbearably, are in an advanced state of irreversible decline, and whose natural deaths have become reasonably foreseeable.

The legislation allowing for medical assistance in dying requires that independent reviews of three particularly complex and sensitive issues be initiated within 180 days after receiving Royal Assent. The reviews will gather and analyze relevant information and evidence on the diverse perspectives and issues surrounding requests for medical assistance in dying in these three areas, in order to facilitate an informed, evidence-based, dialogue among Canadians and decision-makers.

The CCA is an independent, not-for-profit organization that undertakes evidence-based, expert assessments to support and inform public policy development in Canada. It has extensive expertise and experience in conducting reviews on high-profile issues in an objective and rigorous manner. Created in 2005, the CCA has received endowments from the Government of Canada to conduct independent and authoritative assessments on topics proposed by federal government departments or by non-governmental organizations, the private sector, foundations or any level of government.

As part of the review process, the CCA will consider evidence from national and international experts, other levels of government, health care providers, and stakeholders impacted by the issues under review. The studies will be completed within two years and will be made available to Parliamentarians and the public by December 2018.

Quotes

"Passing the medical assistance in dying legislation in June was crucial for supporting improvements to a full range of options for end-of-life care, including the choice of a medically assisted death for eligible Canadians. The reviews that we have launched today will help us to better understand three complex issues not addressed in the legislation."

Jane Philpott
Minister of Health

"By initiating these three independent reviews today, we are delivering on the Government's commitment to Canadians, expressed in the legislation, to further study eligibility for medical assistance in dying in certain circumstances. I look forward to the results of these independent reviews, which will provide Canadians with a comprehensive body of information allowing us to continue this important and sensitive discussion."

Jody Wilson-Raybould
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

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