By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Editor’s note. This is excerpted from a post that appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.
Bill C-7 was introduced on February 24, 2020, in response to the September 11, 2019, Superior Court of Quebec Truchon v. Attorney General of Canada decision. Bill C-7 was re-introduced on October 5.
Truchon found that the “reasonable foreseeability of natural death” criterion in the Criminal Code, as well as the “end-of-life” criterion from Quebec’s Act respecting end-of-life care, was unconstitutional.
The federal government should have appealed Truchon based on the language and the precedent of the decision, but didn’t.
Bill C-7 extends the law in a much wider manner than Truchon required.
In June 2016, Parliament passed C-14 that legalized and “regulated” euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.” It included a provision that the Medical Assistance in Dying (MaiD) law undergo a five-year full review beginning in June 2020. However, since the federal government has not completed the legislated five-year review of the law, further expansions of the law are premature.
It is concerning that Bill C-7 continues to use the phrase: “natural death is reasonably foreseeable.” Experts who support or oppose MAiD agree that the term “natural death is reasonably foreseeable” lacks effective meaning. Not surprisingly, since Bill C-14 was passed in June 2016, the accepted understanding of this phrase has expanded.
Bill C-7 implements a two-track approach to procedural safeguards based on whether or not a person’s “natural death is reasonably foreseeable.”
The first track is based on someone whose natural death is deemed to be reasonably foreseeable. For these cases, Bill C-7 removes the 10-day reflection period. Bill C-14 already permitted a waiving of the 10-day reflection period.
Bill C-7 reduces the requirement there be two independent witnesses to one witness. It also permits a person, who was previously approved for MAiD, to die by MAiD even if that person loses their ability to consent at the time of death.
The second track is based on someone whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable. The main difference is that these people will be subject to a 90 reflection period.
However, without a clear definition to determine if a person’s “natural death is reasonably foreseeable,” these decisions become subjective. Determining whether a person qualifies for MAiD based on the first or second track will be difficult to determine and will be unequally applied based on the lack of definition.