Amy Hasbrouck: Analysis of Canada’s C-14, Assisted Suicide / Euthanasia Bill

On April 14, 2016, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government introduced bill C-14 “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code … (Medical Assistance in Dying)” in the house of commons, pursuant to the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision in Carter v. Attorney General of Canada, of February, 2015.

The law will make it legal for a competent adult with a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” to make a voluntary request and give informed consent to receive “medical aid in dying.” In the statute, a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” is defined as a “serious and incurable disease, illness or disability.” The person must be in an “advanced state of irreversible decline in capability” which causes “enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable” and cannot be relieved in a way they find acceptable, and their natural death must be “reasonably foreseeable.” This is not a formal prognosis and sets no specific time limit. However the person must be informed of their reasonably foreseeable natural death.

Eligibility is determined by a doctor or nurse practitioner, with sign-off by a second doctor or nurse practitioner. The onus is on the person to be informed, and no provision is made to ensure communication access. The process by which decisional capacity is determined is not described.

The law allows for either euthanasia (performed by a doctor or nurse practitioner) or assisted suicide (a prescription the person can take at home). It also calls for a 15-day waiting period, unless the medical professional making the eligibility determination decides that the circumstances merit suspension of the waiting period. The application must be made in writing, and signed by two disinterested witnesses. However there is no restriction on who may write and sign the application on behalf of a person who is incapable of writing; thus an heir or employee of a nursing home could fill out the application for a non-verbal person, and their interpretation of the person’s wishes would probably go unquestioned.

The law allows an exemption for any person aiding a medical practitioner for actions in aid of assisted suicide/euthanasia (AS/E). Similarly, “No person commits an offence … if they do anything, at another person’s explicit request, for the purpose of aiding that other person to self-administer a substance that has been prescribed … as part of the provision of medical assistance in dying.” These exemptions apply “even if the person invoking the exemption has a reasonable but mistaken belief about any fact that is an element of the exemption.”

Some additional problems with the law:

  • The “voluntariness” of the request relates only to “external pressure” not psychosocial conditions or “vulnerability.”
  • There is no “vulnerability assessment” provided.
  • There is no prior, external judicial review of the person’s eligibility for AS/E.
  • There is no guarantee of palliative care or home care.
  • There is no right of refusal for clinicians or organizations; no “safe spaces” for patients.
  • (As in Oregon and Washington) lethal drugs left around the house could pose a danger to children or be sold on the street.
  • The data gathering scope and process are not specified.
  • The promises of the bill’s preamble are not fulfilled in the law.

Bill C-14 excludes persons under 18 years of age, and does not allow medical aid in dying by advance directive. The language of “decline in capability” and “reasonably foreseeable” natural death is meant to exclude people whose “suffering” is purely psychological. However the law provides that these three issues will be studied over the next five years to determine if the law should be amended to allow these practices and include these populations.

The bill is expected to go to second reading within the next week, then to the justice committee for hearings. If the bill is not passed by June 6, then the criminal code sections identified in the Carter case will simply cease to be in effect, creating an unstructured “right” to physician assisted death where virtually anything could happen.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is calling upon local groups to organize rallies at the local offices of MPs (Members of Parliament) on April 27, and is planning a major event on June 1 in Ottawa.

5 thoughts on “Amy Hasbrouck: Analysis of Canada’s C-14, Assisted Suicide / Euthanasia Bill

  1. Here Toujours Vivant, Not-Dead-Yet, 15Jun’17 We would like to offer our open-source Do-we-know-who-we-are-? software to Not-Dead-Yet folks. Given a fully developed LIFE OPTION between being valorized for each of our special gift in community the overwhelming majority of despondent death-fixated individuals will choose to be alive. Please join us in the development of ‘Do-we-know-who-we-are-?’ online open-source web-software as described below.

    I’m grateful to have listened to a radio-show discussing perspectives for & against Assisted Suicide on CBC Radio-noon Montreal to Amy Hasbrouck talking about Here-Toujours-Vivant, Not-Dead-Yet. Thank you for standing up for life!

    I have volunteered & worked for 4 decades as a Specialized-Educator in British Columbia & here in Quebec among folks labelled as Intellectually Handicapped. Everyone has essential gifts in community, which just need above-all, in our disjointed colonial oligarch owned regime to be connected & valorized. I started out of my own interest to learn more about intelligence from people with a slightly different take on life. I’m impressed how everyone has a unique complementary gift essential to the proper functioning of ‘community’ (Latin ‘com’ = ‘together’ + ‘munus’ = ‘gift-or-service’). I collaborate with other family members who live in this multihome community, presently in care of a grandmother at 84 & a brother-in-law with Down’s syndrome at 39 years old living 12 townhouses away. We all benefit from the role which the grandmother & uncle play in all our families.

    I would like to share an online open-sourced web project called ‘DO-WE-KNOW-WHO-WE-ARE-?’, which our non-profit group Indigene-Community is developing with our 2 master programmers, for mobilizing human capacities in neighbourhoods, inter-generational multihome-dwelling-complexes (apartment, townhouse & village) & companies. Folks go online & place a description & pictures or videos of their natural talents, goods, services & dreams. Other curious neighbours find out what is available in the area & indicate they would like to buy. The connection is made & local economy is built in proximity & intimacy. Options include enabling people within multihomes to give & receive, gain money or credits called MEMs (Greek ‘mnemosis’ = ‘memory’ = the root of the word ‘money’). Folks who need anonymous privacy join a Production-Society/Guild who act as an interface for their talents. People can join as any combination of Founders, Workers, Suppliers (Vendors) & Consumers. Do-we-know software includes neighbourhood Human-Resource-Catalogue, Resource-Mapping & accounting for contributions / transactions in a Community-Investment-&-Exchange-System CIES. I would like to contact people in Canada particularly around Montreal who are working with Toujours Vivant. Indigene Community is a sub-group of Montreal’s Sustainable Development Association.

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