Medical assistance in dying: Legislation in Canada
The history of Canada's law on medical assistance in dying (MAID) and how it is changing.
In collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, Health Canada has begun a multi-pillar engagement process on MAID, supporting both Indigenous-led engagement and federally-led activities, including an online engagement tool opening August 17, 2023. Learn more:
The eligibility date for persons whose only underlying medical condition is a mental illness has been postponed to March 17, 2024. Learn more:
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Canada's law on medical assistance in dying
In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Carter v. Canada that parts of the Criminal Code would need to change to satisfy the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The parts that prohibited medical assistance in dying would no longer be valid. The Supreme Court gave the government until June 6, 2016, to create a new law.
In June 2016, Parliament passed federal legislation that allows eligible adults to request medical assistance in dying.
Canada's law on medical assistance in dying legislation has continued to evolve since then.
We're working with provinces, territories and health care professionals to make sure:
- appropriate protections are in place
- eligible people receive medical assistance in dying in accordance with the law
Updates to legislation
Former Bill C-7
On October 5, 2020, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada introduced former Bill C-7: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying) in Parliament. This bill proposed changes to Canada's law on medical assistance in dying.
These changes were introduced in response to the Superior Court of Québec's 2019 Truchon decision. The decision found 2 areas of the original 2016 law to be unconstitutional:
- The "reasonable foreseeability of natural death" eligibility criteria in the Criminal Code
- The "end-of-life" criterion from Québec's Act Respecting End-of-Life Care
The changes were also informed by:
- Canada's experience with medical assistance in dying
- feedback from over 300,000 people during the January and February 2020 consultations, including:
- members of the public
- provincial and territorial representatives
- the testimony of over 120 expert witnesses heard throughout former Bill C-7's study by the House of Commons and the Senate
On March 17, 2021, changes to the legislation took effect that:
- revised eligibility criteria for obtaining MAID and the process of assessment
- changed existing safeguards for eligible people whose natural death is considered reasonably foreseeable
- expanded the framework for federal data collection and reporting
The revised law also contains new safeguards for eligible people who request medical assistance in dying and whose death is not considered reasonably foreseeable.
Eligibility of mental illness as a medical condition
On December 15, 2022, the Government of Canada announced our intention to introduce new legislation related to medical assistance in dying. This legislation would seek an extension of the temporary exclusion of eligibility for persons whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness.
On February 2, 2023, the Government of Canada introduced this legislation (former Bill C-39), and on March 9, 2023, the Bill received Royal Assent. The temporary exclusion was extended until March 17, 2024, which will allow more time:
- for provinces and territories to prepare
- to consider the Special Joint Committee on MAID's review of the legislation on MAID and its application
- to develop key resources to help assessors and providers address these more complex requests
- Medical assistance in dying: Independent reviews
- Medical assistance in dying: For health professionals and regulators
- Statement by Ministers Lametti, Duclos and Bennett on medical assistance in dying in Canada (December 15, 2022)
- News release: Delay of eligibility for medical assistance in dying for persons suffering solely from mental illness proposed by Ministers of Justice and Health (February 2, 2023)
- News release: Delay of eligibility for medical assistance in dying for persons suffering solely from mental illness receives Royal Assent (March 9, 2023)
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