Canadian Senate passes Bill C-7 with amendments to allow euthanasia for mental illness and incompetent people

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On Wednesday, Canada’s Senate overwhelmingly passed Bill C-7, the bill to expand Canada’s euthanasia law, with amendments “that would relax access even more than proposed by the government,” Joan Bryden with the Canadian Press reported.

As bad as Bill C-7 was, the Senate amended the bill to include people with mental illness (with an 18 month time-frame to develop rules around the issue) and euthanasia for incompetent people who request death in their advanced directive.

The mental illness amendment seemed like a “set-up” after Canada’s Justice Minister, David Lametti, announced on November 24 that, once Bill C-7 is passed, he wanted to expand euthanasia to people with mental illness alone.

Bryden explains the Bill C-7 amendments:

One amendment would allow people who fear losing mental capacity to make advance requests for an assisted death.

Another would impose an 18-month time limit on the bill’s proposed blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses.

Until that exclusion on mental illness is lifted, senators also approved another amendment to clarify that it would not apply to people suffering from neurocognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

They further amended the bill to require the government to collect race-based data on who requests and receives assisted dying and to establish a joint parliamentary committee within 30 days of the bill receiving royal assent to review the assisted dying regime in Canada.

The revised bill will now be sent back to the House of Commons for MPs to determine whether to accept or reject some or all of the amendments.

As reported by Bryden, Bill C-7 will now go back to the House of Common for a debate and vote on the Senate amendments.

In September 2019, Québec Justice Baudouin, in  the Truchon decision, struck down the requirement in  Canada’s euthanasia law that a person’s natural death be “reasonably foreseeable.” In response, on February 24, 2020, the federal government introduced Bill C-7 which went much further than the Quebec Superior Court Truchon decision. Now the Senate has made it worse

Background

Due to the COVID-19 crisis and then the prorogation of parliament, Bill C-7 was re-introduced on October 5, 2020.

Last December, parliament passed Bill C-7, without amendments and sent it to the Senate. The shock that our government would expand the euthanasia law before completing its required parliamentary review of the law was exasperated by the appointed Senate.

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