Independent reviews related to medical assistance in dying requests


On June 17, 2016, legislation was enacted 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. It strikes an appropriate balance between personal autonomy for those seeking access to medical assistance in dying and the protection of vulnerable persons. It also addresses other important societal interests such as conscience rights of health care providers, and supporting the equal and inherent dignity and value of every person's life.

Although provinces and territories are primarily responsible for the implementation of medical assistance in dying in Canada, the legislation provides for a continued role for the Government of Canada. Ongoing federal responsibilities include working with jurisdictions to support access to and referrals for medical assistance in dying and end-of-life care, and developing regulations to establish a system for monitoring and reporting on medical assistance in dying.

The legislation also requires the federal government to initiate independent reviews into three complex and sensitive circumstances outside the scope of the law that Parliament passed in June: requests by mature minors, advance requests and requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition.

The reviews will be conducted by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA), an independent, not-for-profit organization that undertakes evidence-based, expert assessments to support and inform public policy development in Canada. The CCA has extensive expertise and demonstrated experience in conducting reviews on high-profile issues in an objective and rigorous manner.

The CCA will establish one or more expert panels that reflect a range of expertise, including legal, medical, ethical, social and health sciences perspectives. As part of the review process, the CCA will consider additional evidence from national and international experts, other levels of government, health care providers, and stakeholders impacted by the issues under review. The process will also examine information already available from previous expert panels and a Parliamentary Committee, as well as domestic and international experience with medical assistance in dying.

Within two years of initiating the studies, the CCA will produce three final reports, which will be made available to Parliamentarians and the public. These reports will not provide recommendations, but will summarize the findings of the reviews and provide a basis for an informed, evidence-based dialogue among Canadians and between Canadians and decision-makers.

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