ARPA Submits Brief to Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying
When Parliament legalized euthanasia in 2016, the law also required Parliament to review Canada’s euthanasia law within five years. In the spring of 2022, Parliament formed the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying. The Committee consists of Members of Parliament and Senators and was tasked with reviewing Canada’s euthanasia law since it was legalized in 2016, reviewing the changes made by Bill C-7 in 2021, studying the issue of euthanasia and mental illness, and discussing whether mature minors should be eligible for euthanasia. Throughout April and May, the Committee accepted briefs from individuals and organizations regarding their perspectives on the issue.
ARPA Canada submitted a written brief to the Committee, and we encourage you to read the submission here. The Committee decided to limit written submissions to a maximum of 1000 words. It was not possible to address our many concerns in one brief, so instead we focused on two particular aspects of euthanasia in Canada.
The first issue ARPA addresses in the brief is ableism. By permitting euthanasia for people who are deemed to have a low ‘quality of life,’ Parliament has allowed doctors to make value judgments about whose life is worth living and whose is not. Able-bodied Canadians deserve suicide prevention, while disabled Canadians are offered suicide assistance. There have been multiple stories of Canadians with disabilities who are unable to get the supports they need; they are seen as a drain on resources and a burden to society. When Bill C-7 expanded euthanasia access to those with disabilities who were not dying, multiple individuals and organizations raised concerns, but Parliament ignored these concerns.
A second area of focus is on the term ‘reasonably foreseeable’ death. Under the current legislation, if a patient’s death is ‘reasonably foreseeable’ they are placed on a ‘fast track’ for euthanasia. This means that the person can receive euthanasia quickly and with fewer safeguards. If a patient’s death is not ‘reasonably foreseeable,’ they are placed on a ‘slow track’ with a 90-day waiting period before euthanasia can be received. The slow track also has various other safeguards. However, ‘reasonably foreseeable’ death is left undefined and is interpreted by some doctors to mean that death would naturally occur within 10 years. This results in patients being placed on the fast track even though they would otherwise have a decade to live and being unable to reconsider their decision or receive meaningful support to help them live well.
Due to the committee’s word limit, we were unable to cover the vast number of concerns with the law and the lack of safeguards. However, to read more about euthanasia and mental illness, you can also find a brief from the Care Not Kill campaign here. Many of you were also able to provide your submissions to the committee, describing your own experiences and a biblical perspective on life. One example focuses on the need for better safeguards to protect the vulnerable. These, and many others, can be found on the committee’s website where over 250 written briefs have been submitted.