Government launches online consultation on issue of medical assistance in dying

Public consultation will be open until Jan. 27

Government launches online consultation on issue of medical assistance in dying

The Government of Canada has launched a public online consultation to give Canadians the opportunity to share their thoughts on the issue of medical assistance in dying.

Acknowledging that the matter is “complex and deeply personal,” affecting many Canadians in diverse circumstances including in situations involving prolonged suffering or disabilities, the government has invited the public to contribute their views by completing an online questionnaire.

The public consultation, which will be open until Jan. 27, will seek input on assisted dying including eligibility, safeguards and advanced requests.

Back in June 2016, the right to seek medical assistance in dying was codified in federal legislation. The law stipulates who is eligible to seek and give such assistance, and outlines the options available and the safeguards to be followed.

Quebec is already on track to change its law on assisted dying. In September 2019 the Superior Court of Quebec held in Truchon v. Attorney General of Canada that the “reasonable foreseeability of natural death” requirement in the Criminal Code and the “end-of-life” requirement in provincial legislation were unconstitutional. The decision will take effect on Mar. 11 unless the court grants an extension.

Although the Truchon ruling applies only in Quebec, the federal government has decided to collaborate with the other provinces and territories in order to improve federal legislation on assisted dying.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti said in a news release that conducting a consultation would discharge the government’s duty to update the law in a manner that is “compassionate, balanced, and reflects Canadians’ views on this important issue.”

Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, highlighted the importance of discussing the issue of autonomy in relation to assisted dying. “I encourage Canadians to participate in the consultation process so the government can proceed with the safety and autonomy of Canadians at the centre of our work,” Hajdu said in the release.

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, emphasized that it was imperative to hear the views of “all Canadians, in particular Canadians with disabilities” on the matter, stating that the government would be working with “the disability community to address concerns around vulnerability and choice, while protecting equality rights.”

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