Academic studies pave way for expanding MAiD eligibility

A trio of studies released by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) have provided the scientific and ethical grounding for policymakers to restore access to medical assistance in dying (MAiD), according to the BC Humanist Association.

The studies, commissioned by the federal government following the passage of Bill C-14, examine aspects of expanding access to MAiD to groups currently excluded by the law: mature minors, those with a mental illness and individuals with degenerative conditions who want an advanced request.

The expert panel that authored the studies was told explicitly to not provide recommendations; however, the nearly 800 pages of reports provide a thorough exploration of possible safeguards for each group of individuals.

Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:

Carter v Canada was clear that people who have a "grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring suffering" have the right to choose a medically-assisted death. The federal government chose to infringe upon that right by excluding these three classes of individuals. These studies provide the evidence needed to restore their rights.

There is no justification for continuing to deny Canadians their autonomy and their rights.

Shanaaz Gokool, CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada said in response to the studies:

Even before these studies were conducted, the government was aware that Canada’s assisted dying rules discriminated against suffering people on the basis of their medical condition. This is inhumane, and it’s incumbent on the government to ensure that Canadians have fair and equal access to all of their end-of-life options in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

These reports are extremely thorough, and they confirm what suffering Canadians have told us for more than two years: that the right to a peaceful death, recognized in the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Carter v. Canada, remains out of reach for many desperately suffering people. It should not be up to vulnerable people to go back to court to reassert their rights.

We urge our federal lawmakers to take the only fair and just course of action: to end, without further delay, the discrimination and cruelty imposed by the law.

The BC Civil Liberties Association is currently challenging the constitutionality of Canada's assisted dying laws.

Photo: Robyn Munro who was initially denied access to MAID and suffered unbearably through the summer of 2017. Credit: Emilie Kernohan and Nathanel Lowe

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