Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Five Year Review of Canada's euthanasia law will likely begin in January. The Senate may amend euthanasia Bill C-7

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) National News has reported that the Five Year Review of Canada's (MAiD) euthanasia law that was legislated to begin in June 2020 will likely begin in January 2021.

Dale Smith reported in an article published in the CBA National on December 14 stated that:
Sources within the Liberal caucus have told CBA National that they have been told the five-year legislative review of the existing MAiD regime is slated to start in January, though this has not been announced publicly. That review was supposed to begin in June, but was pushed off because of the pandemic and the inability to come to an agreement on how to ensure that Parliament would keep functioning throughout it.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is concerned by statements made by Justice Minister, David Lametti, indicating that the government intends to review the issues not dealt with by Bill C-7. Bill C-7 passed in parliament and is currently being debated in the Senate.

Lametti has stated on several occassions that the review will focus on issues related to child euthanasia, euthanasia for mental illness alone and enabling people to validly request euthanasia in their power of attorney for health care (living will).

The bill that legalized euthanasia in June 2016, legislated that a full review of the law was to begin in June 2020. EPC supports a full review of the law, not simply a review that is limited to issues oriented to further expanding the law.

Article: Changes to the law are premature since the government has not done its mandated parliamentary review (Link).

After Bill C-7 passed in the House of Commons by a 212 - 107 vote, with only two Liberals voting against the Bill, Justice Minister Lametti asked the Superior Court of Quebec to extend the time-frame to February 26, 2021, to pass Bill C-7. Therefore the time restraint placed on the Senate to pass Bill C-7 may be lifted.

Article: Parliament passed Bill C-7 without amendments. Contact the Senators (Link).

Senator Denise Batters
The Senate may amend Bill C-7.

Smith also reported for the CBA National that Conservative Senator Denise Batters, the Deputy Chair of the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee, is not in a hurry to pass Bill C-7 and she recognizes that amendments to Bill C-7 may be necessary. Smith wrote:

Conservative Senator Denise Batters, a lawyer and former chief of staff to the Minister of Justice in Saskatchewan, says that if Lametti had read the committee's interim report, he would have seen that there were "major flaws" in the bill that she says will prove problematic in the Senate.

Batters says that she is still evaluating whether to move amendments to the bill, but says that she is most concerned that the bill potentially violates the Section 15 Charter rights of persons with disabilities, and with the removal of the 10-day waiting period.

"The lower court Truchon decision struck down the requirement for a 'reasonably foreseeable' death in order to access assisted dying," says Batters. "It did not call for the removal of safeguards around the practice. Yet Justice Minister Lametti's response, Bill C-7, unnecessarily proposes the removal of not only that 10-day waiting period, but the loosening of a number of other safeguards."

Batters says that given the parliamentary calendar, even meeting a new February date will be challenging.

You need to contact the Senators. (Link to the list of Senators).

Name of Senator 

Senate of Canada 

Ottawa ON K1A 0A4

What does Bill C-7 do?

  1. Bill C-7 removes the requirement in the law that a person’s natural death is reasonably foreseeable in order to qualify for MAiD, as required by Truchon. Therefore people who are not terminally ill can die by MAiD. The Truchon decision only required this amendment to the legislation. 
  2. Bill C-7 permits a doctor or nurse practitioner to lethally inject a person who cannot consent, if that person was previously approved for MAiD. This contravenes the Supreme Court of Canada Carter decision which stated that only competent people could die by MAiD. 
  3. Bill C-7 waives the ten-day waiting period when a person is deemed to be “terminally ill.” Thus a person could request MAiD on a "bad day" and die the same day. Studies prove that the “will to live” fluctuates. 
  4. Bill C-7 creates a two-track law. A person whose death is deemed to be reasonably foreseeable would have no waiting period while a person whose death is deemed to be not reasonably foreseeable would have a 90-day waiting period. 
  5. Bill C-7 reduces the number of witnesses from two to one, and the one witness could be connected to the care of the person. When abuse is done to a vulnerable person, it is often done by a family members or care-giver.
  6. Bill C-7 claims to prevent MAiD for people with mental illness. The law permits MAiD for people who are physically or psychologically suffering that they find intolerable and that cannot be relieved in a way that the person considers acceptable.Bill C-7 states: Exclusion (2.1) For the purposes of paragraph (2)(a), a mental illness is not considered to be an illness, disease or disability.

The government claims that (2.1) excludes MAiD for mental illness alone. To exclude MAiD for mental illness alone, the bill must define psychological suffering to exclude euthanasia for mental illness. Mental illness is currently considered a form of psychological suffering which MAiD is permitted for in the law.

Bill C-7 needs to define the phrase “natural death is reasonably foreseeable,” and it needs to define the terms psychological suffering and mental illness. Without defining the parameters of the law, the law will be unequally applied and it will be applied beyond the claimed scope of the bill.

Bill C-7 does not protect the conscience rights of medical professionals who oppose MAiD.

Bill C-7 expands the law to permit anyone, who considers their physical or psychological suffering to be intolerable, to qualify for death by lethal injection, even if effective medical treatments for their condition exists. The lack of parameters directly threatens the lives of people with disabilities.

When the government legalized euthansia in 2016, the legislation required that the law receive a full review starting in June 2020. That review has not been done and yet the government is expanding the euthanasia law.

There was no requirement in Truchon court decision to remove the 10 day reflection period. Studies show that the will to live fluctuates over time.

Removing the requirement of consent at the time of death is inconsistent with the Supreme court Carter decision and it denies a person the right to change their mind.

As stated earlier, the additional changes to the MAiD law were not required by Truchon court decision. These changes are premature, at best, considering that the five-year review of the MAiD law which was to begin in June 2020, has not yet been done.

The Senate needs to shelve Bill C-7 until after the five-year review is completed. If the government insists on passing Bill C-7 then it must limit the legislative changes to the Truchon decision which only required removing the phrase: “natural death is reasonably foreseeable.”


Nancy said...

Thank you, Alex! Thou Shall Not Kill people! Merry CHRISTmas!

Karen said...

Those that wield the power seem to be deaf to any opposing arguments-no matter how valid. So sad for those of us who want protection.