In a recent blog post, we examined the current state and future of medical assistance in dying in Canada. Please see our earlier post for further background and resources on this topic.
Since that post, there have been a number of court cases that have considered applications by patients for assistance to proceed with medical assistance in dying prior to the June 6, 2016 deadline. These cases include, for example, WBB (Re), 2016 BCSC 1005, Canada (Attorney General) v EF, 2016 ABCA 155, Patient 0518 v RHA 0518, 2016 SKQB 176, HH (Re), 2016 BCSC 971, and Tuckwell (Re), 2016 ABQB 302.
Now that the June 6, 2016 deadline has passed, these applications will no longer be necessary. In particular, it is no longer a crime in Canada to assist another person to end his or her life where such assistance is provided in accordance with the Supreme Court of Canada’s direction in the Carter decision.
Until the proposed federal legislation comes into force, the law on this topic is outlined in the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision in Carter v Canada (Attorney General). That is, medical assistance in dying is no longer prohibited for: (1) a competent adult person; (2) who clearly consents; and (3) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease, or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.
The proposed federal legislation, Bill C-14 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying), has rapidly moved through Parliament. On May 12, 2016, after studying the proposed legislation, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights proposed certain amendments to Bill C-14. These amendments included, among others, adding clarifications and a requirement for an independent review within 180 days of the legislation coming into force of issues relating to requests by mature minors, advance requests, and requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition. The amended copy of Bill C-14 that was passed by the House of Commons on May 31, 2016 is available here. The Bill is currently proceeding through the Senate and was most recently reported on June 7, 2016 without amendment by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Before Bill C-14 becomes law, it must pass through at least one additional stage in the Senate and, once passed by the Senate, it must receive Royal Assent (which typically occurs a few days after being passed by Parliament). You can learn more about how a federal bill becomes law here.
As we noted in our previous blog post, health professionals faced with requests relating to medical assistance in dying are encouraged to look to their professional regulatory bodies for guidance. Such professionals may also wish to seek legal advice given the current absence of federal legislation in this area.