Restrictive Rules on Medical Aid in Dying Failing Canadians

OTTAWA – On Tuesday, marking the two year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on medical aid in dying, NDP Justice Critic Murray Rankin issued a scathing assessment of the government’s restrictive rules on physician assisted dying legislation.

“Medical experts, legal scholars and parliamentarians tried to warn the government about the flaws in their bill; now it’s clear those flawed rules are failing to put patients first,” said Rankin, a former law professor who served on the all-party committee that advised the government before the introduction of Bill C-14 last year.

Since the new law took effect, there have been numerous reports of patients denied the choice of medical aid in dying, forced to seek assistance in foreign jurisdictions, or subjected to painful moves between hospitals because of institutional objections, as well as concerns about inadequate federal data collection.

“I'm sad to hear community members say the bill denies access to those who need it most,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo—Ladysmith. “That patients with ALS, Huntington's, MS or Alzheimer’s do not qualify under C-14 is a deep failing, because they’re being denied the right to a peaceful death.”

Bill C-14 was widely criticized for denying the choice of medical aid in dying to patients suffering from chronic, but not terminal, conditions, leading one of Canada’s top constitutional experts to declare the government’s bill unconstitutional. A legal challenge was launched immediately and is now before the courts in Lamb v Canada.