28 Mar 2017 Canada Must Start Monitoring “Medically Assisted Dying”
Take Action: Send an EasyMail letter to share your concerns with your MP and MPP
When the Supreme Court of Canada legalized assisted suicide in Carter (2015), it allayed concerns about abuse by quoting the words of the trial judge, who said the risks of legalized assisted suicide can be minimized (not eliminated) through a “carefully designed system that imposes strict limits that are scrupulously monitored and enforced.” Put another way, only through a carefully designed system that is “scrupulously monitored and enforced” can the inherent risks of a legalized assisted suicide regime be minimized. Failure to scrupulously monitor the performance of MAID arguably violates the Charter right to life (section 7) by robbing the severely sick or disabled of the equal benefit and protection of the law (section 15).
There is a very real risk that vulnerable people could be victimized by a system that permits deliberately ending the lives of the severely sick or disabled. To lessen this risk, scrupulous monitoring is required. Since Bill C-14 was passed in June (2016), assisted suicide and euthanasia have been permitted and performed without reporting or monitoring. Physicians and nurse practitioners who deliberately end someone’s life need not report it to anyone. Pharmacists who dispense the life-ending drug need not report it either.
Vulnerable people could be victimized by a system that permits deliberately ending the lives of the severely sick or disabled
Federal law does not (yet) require any reporting
Bill C-14 says that the Minister of Health “must make regulations that he or she considers necessary respecting the provision and collection, for the purpose of monitoring medical assistance in dying, of information relating to requests for, and the provision of, medical assistance in dying…” There are several problems here, however.
First, the phrase “must make regulations that he or she considers necessary” is ambiguous. We do not find this phrase in any other statute. Must the Minister make regulations if the Minister considers them unnecessary? Second, the Minister can exempt a class of persons including physicians, nurse practitioners, or pharmacists from the regulations as he or she sees fit. Third, this part of Bill C-14 does not come into effect until June 17, 2017, meaning that Parliament has been permitting assisted suicide and euthanasia without monitoring it and will likely continue to do so for several months at least.
There are two ways to redress this problem. First, the Criminal Code could be amended so as to set out reporting requirements directly, rather than leaving them to the Minister’s discretion. No physician, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist who participates in “MAID” should be exempt. Second, Canadians should demand that the Minister of Health implement adequate regulations as soon as the reporting provisions of Bill C-14 come into force.
Provinces can also require reporting
The Ontario government recently tabled Bill 84, which would require physicians and nurse practitioners to give notice to the coroner whenever “medical assistance in dying” (MAID) is provided. The Ontario government is right to require physicians to report each and every “medically assisted” death to the coroner and we commend this initiative. However, Bill 84 does not set out the content of the notice to be given to the coroner. The coroner should be able to determine from the notice, at a minimum, some basic information about the circumstances and the cause of the person’s death. Accordingly, ARPA spelled out its recommendations in a written submission to the committee reviewing Bill 84 this week.
Only the federal government can draw the line between culpable homicide or culpable assistance in suicide on one side and permissible MAID on the other. Provincial governments, however, can play a role in monitoring the provision of a provincially funded service by provincially licensed physicians and nurse practitioners, often in provincially licensed facilities, particularly where the criminal law is silent, as it is in this context.
Remind your elected representatives about the importance of reporting
“Dying With Dignity”, a pro-euthanasia lobby group, is actively opposing the requirement to notify the coroner, calling it “stigmatizing”. It is remarkable how unconcerned some activists are with safety and accountability, unlike the Court that actually legalized “MAID” (in limited circumstances) in the first place. We must remind MPs and MPPs of the dangers of legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia and of the necessity of “scrupulous monitoring and enforcement” so that: 1. the risk to vulnerable Canadians would be lessened, and 2. the government can be held accountable for permitting and funding euthanasia.
Ontarians, send an EasyMail to your MPP:
Canadians (Ontarians too!), send an EasyMail to your MP: