Now that Canada’s parliament is prorogued, what will happen to euthanasia Bill C-7?

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition [EPC]

To protect the government from recent scandals and to prepare for a possible fall election, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he was proroguing parliament. Technically proroguing parliament “kills” the legislation that has not yet passed. 

Canadian tradition permits the government, after prorogation [the government will return on September 23] to receive approval to return legislation to the legislative track that it had been on. The government may abandon certain legislation that it has decided does not fit within its legislative direction.. 

As reported by Charlie Pinkerton for IPolitics, Bill C-7 will return as a government bill after the September 23rd throne speech which introduces both the government’s direction and goals, and outlines how it will work to achieve them.

Why is Canada expanding its euthanasia law?

In September 2019, Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin struck down the requirement in Canada’s euthanasia law that a person’s natural death must be “reasonably foreseeable.” The federal government did not appeal the decision.

I reported that striking down the “terminal illness” requirement in the law opened the door to euthanasia for psychiatric conditions (Link).

On February 24, 2020, Canada’s federal government introduced Bill C-7 to expand the euthanasia law. 

However, Bill C-7 goes much further than the Quebec Superior Court decision.

What does Bill C-7 do?

1. Bill C-7 removes the requirement in the law that a person’s natural death be reasonably foreseeable to qualify for assisted death. Therefore, people who are not terminally ill can die by euthanasia. The Quebec court decision only required this amendment to the law. Bill C-7 goes further.

2. Bill C-7 would permit a doctor or nurse practitioner to lethally inject a person who is incapable of consenting, if that person was previously approved for assisted death. This contravenes the Supreme Court of Canada Carter decision which stated that only competent people could die by euthanasia.

3. Bill C-7 waives the ten-day waiting period if a person’s natural death is deemed to be “reasonably foreseeable.” Thus a person could request death by euthanasia on a “bad day” and die the same day. Studies prove that the “will to live” fluctuates.

Recent statistics indicate that in 65.7% of MAiD [Medical Assistance in Dying] deaths, the 10-day waiting period was followed. However, in the 34.3% of MAiD deaths where the waiting period was shortened, most practitioners (84.4%) cited imminent loss of the patient’s capacity to consent as the primary reason, with imminent death cited in 45.4% of these cases.

Bill C-7 does not need to eliminate the 10 day waiting period because the current law already allows the doctor or nurse practitioner to waive the waiting period.

For instance, in November 2016, EPC reported the case of a woman who may only have had a bladder infection who died by euthanasia. Even in this case, soon after legalization, the doctor waved the 10 day waiting period.

4. Bill C-7 creates a two-track law. There is no waiting period for a person whose natural death is deemed to be “reasonably foreseeable” while there would be a 90 day waiting period for a person whose natural death is deemed to not be “reasonably foreseeabld. This provision in the law will be challenged in court.

5. Bill C-7 falsely claims to prevent euthanasia for people with mental illness. The euthanasia law permits MAiD for people who are physically or psychologically suffering 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, is considered a form of psychological suffering.

The Canadian government must reject Bill C-7 and begin the promised 5-year review of the euthanasia law. It should examine what is actually happening already rather than continue to expand euthanasia, making Canada’s the most permissive euthanasia regime in the world.

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