Bill That Seeks to Expand Euthanasia Sparks Debate

October 14, 2020 Updated: October 14, 2020

Court-ordered legislation to expand euthanasia in Canada is welcomed by advocates but condemned by opponents who say the bill is poorly crafted and too permissive.

Legislative changes were ordered by Justice Christine Baudouin of the Quebec Superior Court in September 2019. Beaudouin agreed with plaintiffs Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu that euthanasia should be allowed to end their persistent and intolerable suffering, even though their death was not “reasonably foreseeable.”

Bill C-7 was introduced before Parliament was prorogued and then reintroduced with the same name and wording on Oct. 5. Under the legislation, someone who is not terminally ill can receive medical assistance in death (MAiD) 90 days after they request it, provided a medical professional has explained “the reasonable and available means to relieve the person’s suffering” and “the person has given serious consideration to those means.”

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition told The Epoch Times that the legislation removes important safeguards.

“They went much further than the court actually required them to go,” he said.

If the bill passes, the terminally ill will only need one independent witness to verify the conditions for euthanasia were met, instead of two as is currently required. The legislation also eliminates the 10-day waiting period between consent for MAiD and its execution.

“I have no waiting period. I can show up at the doctor’s, be evaluated by a doctor, be evaluated by a nurse practitioner, they can say, ‘Yes he’s definitely terminally ill,’ then sign me off. I can be dead the same day now,” Schadenberg said.

Schadenberg calls that “really, really, really bad policy.” In Quebec, at least 323 patients who requested MAiD in writing changed their mind later, according to two 2019 reports by the Quebec Commission covering the period December 2015 to March 2019, and available Canadian data suggests that at least 7 percent of patients making a written request for MAiD subsequently change their mind.

“If you look at all the studies that have been done on the question of one’s will to live, that fluctuates,” Schadenberg said. “Because I’m having a really bad day today, it means I’ll never get a chance to experience a good day tomorrow because I could die the same day, according to this legislation.”

Helen Long, CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada, welcomes the legislation. She told The Epoch Times: “In terms of the 10-day wait period, what we know, what we heard from clinicians over the years is, by the time someone makes their MAiD requests, they’ve generally given it quite a lot of thought and there has been a lot of careful consideration put in.”

“There’s still clinician involvement in the entire process though,” she added. “I think there’s safeguards. It’s a change but there’s still a safeguard in place.”

In addition, currently a person must renew his or her consent shortly before euthanasia is administered. Bill C-7 waives that requirement if the person has lost the ability to consent “except if they demonstrate signs of resistance to or refusal of the procedure.”

Long supports that provision. “That’s something … we’ve advocated for years, so we were pleased to see that change as well.”

The Christian Legal Fellowship says passage of Bill C-7 “will fundamentally redefine the nature and role of euthanasia by making it available to individuals who are not dying, and who may have years left to live.”

“[E]xpanding euthanasia in these ways will severely undermine society’s commitment to the equal worth of all people, including those with disabilities,” it says in a news release. “If passed, euthanasia will no longer be an exceptional remedy to hasten a painful death, but a widely available and state-sponsored means of ending a patient’s life.”