Canadian Bar Association: Canada’s euthanasia bill C-7 will be challenged in the court because it is not inclusive enough

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

recent report from the End of Life Working Group of the Canadian Bar Association suggests several “problems” with Bill C-7, the bill to expand euthanasia in Canada.

Bill C-7 goes much further than the Quebec Superior Court’s Truchon decision but not as far as the Canadian Bar Association would prefer.

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. Bill C-7 allows medical homicide for people who need treatment and care.

On February 24, 2020, the federal government introduced Bill C-7 in response to the Truchon decision. That verdict, rightly described as “groundbreaking,” struck down the requirement in the law that a person’s “natural death must be reasonably foreseeable” before qualifying for death by lethal injection. 

Bill C-7 creates a two track law. A person whose natural death is not “reasonably foreseeable” has a 90 day waiting period. Bill C-7 waves the 10 day waiting period for people whose natural death is deemed to be “reasonably foreseeable.” Therefore a person can request and then die by lethal injection on the same day.

The Canadian Bar Association stated:

The criterion of “reasonably foreseeable death” has caused significant uncertainty and difficulty in practice and Bill C-7 does not give any guidance on how to apply it.

We recommend that guidance be given to avoid confusion on which safeguards apply and ensure appropriate access to MAiD.

I have stated that if Bill C-7 is passed, a future court decision will strike down the 90 day waiting period for people whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable because, it would be argued, this provision represents an inequality in the law.

Since The Canadian Bar Association supports euthanasia for mental illness they recommended that

Mental illness should not be excluded from the definition of “serious and incurable illness, disease or disability,” especially given the full MAiD review planned for June 2020. The exclusion of mental illness appears to apply both when death is reasonably foreseeable and when death is not reasonably foreseeable.

I am convinced that Bill C-7 already does not prevent euthanasia for mental illness. 

Bill C-7 permits MAiD for people who are physically or psychologically suffering in a manner that is intolerable to the person and that cannot be relieved in a way that the person considers acceptable. However, mental illness, which is not defined in the law, can be considered a form of psychological suffering and therefore has not been excluded by Bill C-7.

If the government wants to exclude euthanasia for mental illness, Bill C-7 would need to define psychological suffering in a manner that excludes euthanasia for mental illness.

I agree with the Canadian Bar Association when it stated:

“The general exclusion of all persons suffering from mental illness is likely to be constitutionally challenged.”

Petition: Reject euthanasia Bill C-7 (Link).

Why should I be concerned?

Euthanasia (MAiD) was legalized in June 2016. From that date until December 31, 2019, there have been more than 13,500 MAiD deaths in Canada, with more than 5,400 in 2019 alone.

The Canadian government must reject Bill C-7 and begin the promised 5-year review of the euthanasia law with an open view to what is actually happening rather than continuing to expand euthanasia, making Canada the most permissive euthanasia regime in the world.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.