Canada: Medical assistance to die or assisted suicide?

Publié le 25 Feb, 2016

Today, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced that, between now and 6 June, the Canadian Parliament would adopt a law authorising medically assisted dying.


This announcement follows on from:

·         The Supreme Court judgment which declared Penal Code articles “prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia” as unconstitutional, authorising medically assisted dying for “consenting adults with serious health problems”,

·         The report compiled by a Canadian House of Commons and Senate Special Committee in December outlining governmental recommendations with a view to a draft bill in accordance with this Supreme Court judgment (Canada: a Consultative Committee for Assisted Suicide).


This report comprising 21 recommendations suggests in particular that:

·         The law should initially apply to “responsible adults aged 18 and over”,

·         Three years after its inception, this law should be extended to “responsible and mature minors”,

·         Medically assisted dying “should not be refused to patients suffering from psychological disorders”,

·         Medically assisted dying should be “equally accessible to ‘subjects presenting with terminal and non-terminal diseases’if the latter are “‘serious’ and irreversible and cause persistent, intolerable suffering”,

·         A person diagnosed as “probably likely” to lose his/her capacities or suffering from a “serious or untreatable health problem” may request medical assistance to die “before the suffering becomes intolerable”.


For Judy Wilson-Raybould, “it is too early to say what will be included in the legislation and what will be left out”. Her Government will take “the necessary time” to study the recommendations and retains an “empathic” and “balanced” approach recognising “individual autonomy, the need to protect the vulnerable and the right to conscientious objection”, she explained.


The Quebec Health Minister, Gaëtan Barrette, is waiting for details of the Federal bill before assessing its impact for the provinces. He nevertheless estimates that some recommendations will be too vague and open-ended. “On reading the recommendations, it is more about assisted suicide than medically assisted dying,” he pointed out.


Four Conservative MPs who signed a divergent report also claimed that medical assistance was not highlighted in sufficient depth and that some recommendations go beyond the Supreme Court’s ruling, especially the extension of medically assisted dying to minors.


This report is also worrying doctors because it is all happening “a little too fast”. The Quebec Medical Association, College of Physicians and the Canadian Medical Association are wondering about the conscience issues that this law has already raised and will continue to do so.


To go even further:

Medically assisted dying: extending the approach to minors in Canada.

Le Figaro Premium (25/02/2016), Le Devoir (26/02/2016)

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