Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould: Medical assistance in dying is complex and deeply personal. Is there enough medical and social evidence to understand the implications of an expanded law?
While thousands of Canadians—some 6,700, according to a report published by Health Canada in April 2019—have accessed MAID, we question whether there is enough medical and social evidence to understand the implications of potential changes. Has a substantial consensus emerged to support an expanded law? Given their choice not to appeal the Quebec ruling, the federal government intends to change the law, whether the legislative or social facts have shifted or not. The question is to what degree.
Assisted dying is a complex and deeply personal matter. This work should not be rushed. The federal government should ask for an extension for the Quebec decision to come into effect.
In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down an absolute prohibition on physician-assisted dying. The case was initiated by Kay Carter (Carter v Canada), who suffered from a case of spinal stenosis deemed to be grievous and irremediable. In doing so, the court overturned the 1993 Rodriguez decision in which the right to assisted dying had been denied. They stated that the Canadian and global context, what they described as the “matrix of legislative and social facts,” had sufficiently changed over time. But the Court did not provide guidance as to what legislative framework—if any—should be put in place. They appropriately left that work for Parliament.