Bill 84, the Medical Assistance in Dying Statute Law Amendment Act, 2016, passed First Reading on December 7, 2016. The new bill would amend various provincial statutes in keeping with the recent amendments to the Criminal Code that legalized medical assistance in dying (“MAID”). The Criminal Code revisions relating to MAID are discussed in a previous Health Communiqué, What Health Industry Clients Need to Know in Relation to Bill C-14 on Medical Assistance in Dying.
Bill 84 proposes to amend six different statutes with respect to health care in Ontario:
- The Excellent Care for All Act would be amended to ensure that insurance payouts and workplace safety benefits would not be denied in cases of medically assisted deaths. The amendments would also protect physicians and nurse practitioners from civil liability, except in actions based upon alleged negligence.
- The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act would be amended to declare that any person who received medical assistance in dying would be considered to have died as a result of the underlying illness.
- The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act would be amended to enhance privacy protections for healthcare providers in relation to medical assistance in dying.
- The Vital Statistics Act would be amended to change the documentation requirements that coroners must provide. The requirement for documentation would no longer apply where the coroner determines the death does not require an investigation.
- Important changes are also proposed for the Coroners Act to address the role of the coroner regarding deaths from MAID. Currently, the Ontario coroner’s office is required to be notified of all medically assisted deaths in the province and must investigate all circumstances involving MAID. Under the Bill 84 amendments, the coroner would have the discretion to determine whether it is necessary to investigate a medically assisted death. The requirement to investigate any death from any cause other than disease would no longer apply to MAID. This amendment will, if passed, effectively balance the coroner’s reporting functions while ensuring minimal intrusion to the patient’s family. Within two years after the proposed amendments come into effect, the Solicitor General would be required to establish a process to review the provisions of the Coroners Act, including establishing a department within the provincial coroner’s office specifically for the purpose of receiving reports on assisted deaths.